Reflection on the Lectionary

Sunday 29th May (Easter 7)
Psalm 97 | Acts 16 : 16 – 34 | Revelation 22:12-14,16,17,20,21 | John 17 : 20 – 26
This reflection is provided by Local Preacher, Alison Smith (St. Andrew’s).

Jesus is coming soon!

We hear this word, this prophesy, this promise and so we look to the skies in expectation; but our time is not God’s time, so we wait.
When He comes, He will reward each person according to what they’ve done – good or bad.
How have we lived?
Have our tongues been sharp?
Have our actions been unworthy of God?
Have we confessed our sins and been forgiven?
God is omnipresent (widespread), omnipotent (unlimited power), omniscient (all knowing). He is the beginning, the creator God who spoke
all things into being. The first and the last being of all men. The Alpha and Omega – the comprehensiveness of God who includes all that can be; and the end, when there will be the last fight for good and evil when Christ will prevail and humankind will be free.
The washing of robes is a metaphor for purification from uncleanliness or sin. Those who profess their sin are blessed and saved through their faith, to go into the eternal city, the New Jerusalem and have access to the tree of life.
When we acknowledge our wrongdoings and ask forgiveness from God, we are washing ourselves clean and He will bless us for this cleansing. He will open up His gates and let us into the eternal kingdom, promised at the end of time.
The angel was sent by Jesus to John for the churches, who should be teaching and heeding this message, this gift that has been given.
Jesus was born a descendent of King David and is rightful heir to the kingdom God promised. He is the cornerstone on which everything is built and is the root, anchoring God, His church and His people together.

Jesus says He is the Bright Morning Star – just as the morning star appears before the sun rises, so Jesus will come for the church before He returns to restore Israel to himself.
Salvation is a free gift and this is a final invitation to us and all sinners to come to Christ, and to quench our spiritual thirst with the water of life.
The Holy Spirit extends this invitation through the Bride, the church. We need to listen, share this truth and follow the invitation to come. Those who come to Christ, drink the water of life freely.
Here Jesus affirms that He is coming ‘soon.’ Again, we don’t know when that will be, when that moment will arrive – maybe today or tomorrow, but the time of Jesus’ return is known only to God. Whenever he comes it will be quickly, “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Cor 15:52).
We often sing hymns reciting the words, ‘come, Lord Jesus’ and respond to other prayers in the same way. Each prophecy regarding Jesus’ first coming has been fulfilled and we trust that each prophecy about His second coming will similarly be fulfilled. Jesus’ promise to return must encourage each and every one of us to the point of saying – Amen. Come Lord Jesus!
John concluded the book of Revelation with this line, “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen”
The grace of our Lord saved John and sustained him through his exile, providing him with the privilege of seeing sights of God and His position in heaven, and being gifted to learn and write about the Lord’s future plans.
It is by the grace of God that we are saved so we must give all the glory to Him for what He has and is accomplishing in our lives; and we should shout with joy that “Jesus is coming soon!” AMEN

Reflection on the Lectionary

Sunday 22nd May (Easter 6 & Aldersgate Sunday)
Psalm 67 | Acts 16 : 9 – 15 | Revelation 21 : 10, 22 – 22 :5 | John 14 : 23 – 29
This reflection is provided by Local Preacher Howard Wilson (Horfield).

Acts 16:9-15

Acts 16:9-15

  1. During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’
  2. When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.
    The Conversion of Lydia
  3. We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis,
  4. and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days.
  5. On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there.
  6. A certain woman named Lydia, a worshipper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul.
  7. When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.’ And she prevailed upon us.

I love passages like this!

Paul has a vision, ‘God wants me to go to Macedonia’, and then just ups and goes. Imagine this today – “God wants you to go to Spain” and we’d immediately think of a hundred reasons why it’s not convenient just yet, maybe in six months… we’d have to check our passport was in date (or maybe even apply for a passport)… we’d need to get online and search for a suitable flight… of course, before then, we might need a few dozen church meetings to agree whether or not this was actually a vision, whether God might prefer that we do some more work on the church roof before we think about spending on people we’ve never met… and so on.

But Paul just ups and goes. In fairness, we might say that Paul has the advantage of having reasonably recently had a direct meeting with God, so maybe he was a bit more attuned to listening to God. It’s great that not only does Paul decide he must go to Macedonia, but he also convinces his ‘team’ to go with him – including Luke who is writing this book.


So, they have what sounds like a challenging journey – it we didn’t fly we’d at least be able to use a decent ferry and then drive in a matter of a few hours. Paul and company were stuck on a sailing ship, then a long walk. Probably another reason we would not be so quick to agree to go. When they finally get there they end up chatting with a group of women – on a Sabbath as well! It’s amazing how far the ‘ultra legalistic Pharisee’ Paul has come since his encounter with Jesus. Not only is he travelling on demand, but he’s breaking Jewish rules about mixing with women on the Sabbath.

Then he ends up talking to Lydia – she would have been a very wealthy woman, dealing in purple cloth in those days would be more impressive than someone who deals in hand spun silk today. Purple dyes were incredibly expensive, so to be able to afford to deal in such cloth would require substantial resources.

This woman is then convinced by Paul and his team, chooses to follow Jesus and along with her household, is baptised there and then (no six weeks of membership classes or need to check out who she was). Seems a lot of effort to go to for one person (and their household).

But that’s the beauty of the God that we follow – willing to put all out for one person. This was the realisation that Wesley came to when he attended a church in Aldersgate Street and felt his heart ‘strangely warmed’ as he realised the God cares for him – ‘even me’. May we all, at the very least, accept that God loves and cares for us, and may just have a role for us in the mission of the Church.

Loving Lord,
help us to listen for your prompting.
Make us willing to respond to your call,
and give us the courage to act upon it. Amen.

Reflection on the Lectionary

Sunday 15th May (Easter 5 & Christian Aid Week)

Psalm 148 | Acts 11 : 1 – 18 | Revelation 21 : 1 – 6 | John 13 : 31 – 35
This reflection is provided by Local Preacher Sarah James of Faithspace

With Christian Aid week upon us we celebrate 75 years since its start. The beauty of the work of Christian Aid is that it really shows the effectiveness of Christians in global justice issues. Who would have thought so many big ideals would be achieved in those 75 years?

From responding reactively to the needs of refugees after the war, to proactively campaigning and partnering with other agencies, they have tackled the root causes of poverty, with new strategies and approaches. Connecting our thinking about our consumption and the global food crisis has demanded more in the way of official development from our own government.

Isn’t it encouraging that we are not speaking of 19th century philosophy here, but the proof from recent history that our good intentions can come to something? So, we know that we can alter the crooked systems and change the world for the better, challenging and campaigning against the evils in the world and giving concrete aid in the meantime. Looking at our readings today will show that it’s all about making space for the holy City; the new Jerusalem to come down: Revelation 21:1-6; making way for the new heaven and new earth. It means including everyone, Acts 11:1-8 and it all boils down to loving one another, John 13:1-5.

So, Christian Aid week is upon us and we celebrate those seventy five years of the charities work. Its humanitarian relief soon stretched to long term development aid to poorer communities worldwide. By tackling injustice and supporting people’s rights they continue to help the refugee, to tackle racism and poverty at their root causes, to educate those who can, to feed and support those in need. They have managed to tackle apartheid, worked to highlight issues: tax inequalities for developing countries and more recently climate change too, campaigning by bringing organisations together to effect systemic change to alleviate people’s suffering. In short, giving us a way to help and showing us that we can. How will you support Christian Aid this week?

Have a look at today’s readings and consider the following:

Revelation 21:2-6
What difference might it make to life here and now if we believe that the ‘Holy city, the new Jerusalem’ will ‘come down’, as it says in the passage, rather than us being taken up to it?
How and what should we do to prepare for this? What difference could it make to our and others lives?

Acts 11:1-8
The Holy Spirit told Peter to accept everyone ‘and not to make a distinction between them and us. Who do we think of, or treat as Gentiles? Other faiths? Other races? Those who don’t come to church? What if you gave your blessing of the Holy Spirit to everyone you met?

John 13:31-35
This was Jesus’ last commandment and the words he left his disciples to remember.
‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another…. By this everyone will know you are my disciples. If Jesus says we are all to be included and the kingdom is to be lived and grown here: how must we love one another and Gods creation?

For your prayer this week:

1. Contemplate the holy city: what one thing could you do to make way for it?

2. Practice giving God’s peace to everyone you meet; be inventive.

3. Take some time to imagine a place where this ‘loving one another’ is the norm. What would life look like then?

4. Pray for God’s presence with you, that you might understand his love and pass it on.

‘Love one another as I have loved you.’

Meditation

May 8th 2022

Psalm 23 | Acts 9 v46-43 | Revelation 7 v9-17 | John 10 v22-30

Two frogs fell into a large bowl of cream. The sides of the bowl were too smooth for them to use as a foothold to climb out. One frog found the circumstances impossible, gave up and sank to the bottom and was no more. The other frog swam and swam with all his might. He kept on swimming, his webbed feet churning up the cream until he found that the cream had turned into butter. He was able to stand on the butter and then hop out of the bowl.

Our Bible readings today are all about perseverance, coping with the struggles of life. The word persevere comes from per, meaning through, coupled with the word severe. It means keeping on, trusting God, looking up and doing our duty even through severe circumstances. It is so easy to give up, we have to make so many decisions in our day to day lives, either as individuals or church communities.

The psalm this week must be one of the most familiar and best loved of all. In the New Testament the picture of Jesus as shepherd caring for His sheep and telling of the shepherd searching for the one that is lost is not the full picture.

If you watched Countryfile last Sunday you will have noticed that there is a lot more to shepherding than looking after white woolly lambs. Their health and safety is all important. Are the fences sturdy and kept mended, are there risks in allowing nature to take over while ewes neglect their offspring. Real shepherding needs strength of mind and body and constant vigilance. Real shepherding is not just about green pastures and cool still waters. Shepherding is of necessity about the highs and lows of life.

God’s shepherding tells us that He is there in our deepest darkest moments. As well as being on the mountain tops and cliff tops, He is with us in the valleys and mole hills. When the going gets tough, we so often attempt to push through on our own, only to find ourselves getting weighed down and going nowhere fast. What we must do is trust our shepherd, being aware of His presence, acknowledging His Blessings and guidance. Just as God perseveres with us and sees us through our darkest journeys, so we need to persevere in our faith and trust Him to see us through those difficult times.

I read the following in Argyle Morley’s Church Magazine.

A little girl told her teacher that she knew the whole of the 23rd psalm. Her teacher sceptically gave her the opportunity to recite it. This is what she said:

” The Lord is my shepherd, He is all that I want.” Then she sat down.

Out of the mouths of babes !!

With every Blessing to you, Val Lamont

A prayer:

Sometimes Lord, something comes along that happens to shake our world. Thank you that you are with us through the difficulties, that you never give up on us. Thank you for blessing us with new beginnings, with green pastures and still waters.

AMEN