Reflection on the Lectionary

Sunday 19th June
Psalm 42 | 1 Kings 19 : 1 – 4, 8 – 15 | Galatians 3 : 23 – 29 | Luke 8 : 26 – 39
This reflection is provided by Local Preacher, Chris Sledge (Potters Wood).

1 KINGS 19 verses 1 – 4, 8 – 15
We all enjoy a good story and especially one that has its fair share of drama. Such is the story of the people of Israel – a story that is punctuated by the acts of famous men such as Abraham and Moses and a story that centres upon the people of Israel’s relationship with God through all the highs and lows of their journey.
One of those “famous men” is Elijah about whom our reading speaks.
Elijah was a ninth century BC prophet, a Tishbite of Tishbe in Gilead on the east bank of the River Jordan (1 Kings 17). His ministry centred upon the northern Kingdom (Israel) and scripture records six main episodes in the prophet’s life :

Elijah appears without introduction and announces a drought to King Ahab and Elijah is miraculously sustained at Cherith, being fed by ravens and then he went to Zarephath,
where he healed a widow’s son (17 v 8-17).

Elijah was involved in a “contest” between the people of Israel and those who worshipped the god Baal, it took place on Mt Carmel, where the sovereignty of God was challenged.

Elijah came under the wrath of Queen Jezebel and had to flee for his life arriving at Mt Horeb (Sinai). This was a sacred place where Moses had met God. This disheartened prophet had now returned to the source of faith for which he had fought and where he found God in the “still small voice.” (19 v 12)

The story surrounding Naboth’s vineyard (ch 21) illustrates the fact that land owned by an Israelite family was God’s gift and failure to recognise this would bring judgement.

A further clash between followers of Baal and the people of Israel (2 Kings 1)

Elijah’s translation by whirlwind brings a dramatic end to Elijah’s prophetic career and his mantle falls on Elisha (2 Kings 2 v 11-12).
Elijah stands as the “doyen” of the Old Testament prophets and was the forerunner of the great eighth century prophets e.g. Amos and Hosea. He was a man of action, always calling people back to God and worshipping Him alone. He proclaimed Moses’ standards of right living in community about which Amos and Hosea spoke so strongly.
When we read the story of Elijah we see a picture of a tremendous person, on fire for God; jealous for the Lord, living only for God. He was not afraid or ashamed to speak out on all that was against the faith in matters of worship and righteousness in community. But this was not without consequences, as he put his own life in danger; he felt isolated at times (19 v 9-10) and had to be reminded that he wasn’t alone.
We ourselves may at times have similar feelings to Elijah and like him needed to be reminded that we are not alone’ our fellow Christians are with us and above all God is with us to empower and strengthen us.
A further great lesson Elijah teaches us is that you can’t divorce religion (faith) from life and politics.
Politics is to do with people and if our faith means anything at all, it will affect them and their lives.

Let us stand firm in the faith we possess and profess, trusting in the God of our forefathers who is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Read, as a prayer, hymn 634 in Singing the Faith – Fight the good fight with all your might.

Reflection on the Lectionary

Readings: John 15:1-8 | Isaiah 5:1-7
Today’s reflection was written by Mrs Vivienne Lear

Jesus says, I am the true vine, you are the branches.

The vine was the emblem of the Jewish nation. It was represented on the doors and entrance to the Temple; it appeared on their coins. God had selected the nation to be his chosen people. Through the prophets he shared his intention for his people. He was described by Isaiah as the gardener who prepared a vineyard, cared for it, and expected a good harvest but when he came to pick the fruit of the vine the grapes were sour. These grapes, the chosen people had stopped obeying God’s word and lived their own ways and not in God’s ways. They experienced exile as a result. But God still loved and cared for his people, he did not desert them, he gave them the promised Messiah.

Jesus was the true vine, the fulfilment of God’s purpose where Israel had failed. When Jesus spoke to the crowds, declaring he was the true vine they would have comprehended the reference to the vine and known he was a special prophet from God. Jesus the true vine, the root stock from whom all who believed in him would be the branches and flourish and grow.
But if good fruit was to be expected then growth could not be left to chance. Christ’s contemporaries needed to accept his teaching and grow in his love. This is so with us, we need to hear Christ’s teaching and grow in it. He prepares us as a gardener would prepare the soil and guides us through our daily living.

We don’t just hear his words once and think we will become a good harvest from the true vine. We are not separate from him, we need to abide in Jesus at all times, returning to him daily through our Bible reading and prayers and if we are able, to attend worship regularly for nourishment to our faith. Then whatever our age, our health we can belong to the true vine.

God the gardener has prepared for the fertile soil of our being. He has given us the opportunity to abide in him and absorb the nutrients of the teaching of Jesus who is the true vine. We are aware of the things that delight and please God. He loves to find such fruits in us as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self control. He loves to see justice, mercy, right living and honesty. The products of vines, grapes, are different varieties, different colours, different sizes yet together create a combination of tasty sweet fruit. We are all different but as attachments to the true vine we can become good products of that vine and share our fruits with others and not keep it to ourselves.

Lord Jesus, you are the vine we are the branches;
remove every branch from us that bears no fruit
and prevents healthy growth.
You are the vine we are the branches
help us to abide in you,
in your words and in your love.

Reflection on the Lectionary

Sunday 5th June (Pentecost)
Psalm 104 : 24 – 35 | Acts 2 : 1 – 21 | Romans 8 : 14 – 17 | John 14 : 8 – 17 (25-27)
This reflection is provided by Local Preacher, Jenny Clark (Yate)

John 14 : 8 – 17
‘In one ear and out the other,’ is a familiar phrase and describes the way words can be heard but little else! Listening is active so what the ears hear permeates into the brain and is processed. The words of Jesus to Philip point out that the words and actions of Jesus have not led to understanding and can develop expectations that are unrealistic or miss potential that is ‘staring us in the face’.

On her 90th Birthday, my Mum who had always been quite shy in public gatherings stood up in front of over 60 gathered family and friends and spoke for 10 minutes without hesitation, notes, or repetition , about her life and expressed thanks to all who had come to the event. As her speech continued, the jaws of family members dropped open in surprise. Where did this amazing confidence and eloquence come from? Someone we thought we knew so well was empowered in that moment by decades of experience but had previously no opportunity to express herself! I cannot in any way equate the incident with my mum to the power of Jesus but it is an illustration of how we can find clarity and depth of meaning from qualities we were unaware of, when they are unlocked.

Jesus was always able to unlock potential but more importantly, was able to give people the gift of the Spirit to guide and sustain them. The conversation in the lesson is between Jesus and His disciples, an intimate gathering, one of the discourses leading up to the death of Jesus.

As we reflect on the words to Philip and indeed all who were gathered at this special time, Jesus is clarifying not only who he was, but the gift they were to be given. On this day of Pentecost, we recall that same gift given to each one of us and should ask ourselves how effective the Spirit is in our lives.

The Platinum Anniversary of our Queen, Elizabeth II, is a remarkable occasion and her legacy for the world is inspirational. Her Christian faith is without doubt an integral part of her life and her role as Monarch is one of service to those she reigns over. Service to others is a hallmark of how she recognises the good that is done by many who have gained her recognition. The Holy Spirit seeks to guide us all to give of ourselves. Jesus talks to His Disciples, letting
them know that He is leaving them but that their work is just beginning.

Jesus gives the promise of the Holy Spirit and keeping His Commandments is the empowering responsibility. As we feel that ‘transforming wind’ breathe into us again, may we feel clear headed, brave and sure in the faith that we are called to put into action, in the name of Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen

Lord, we know that we are often unsure and even a little unwilling to give ourselves totally to your service but we do love you and seek to keep your commandments, so give us the courage and trust to allow the Holy Spirit to take away our hesitation and continue to guide and support us in our journey of faith. Amen