“In contemporary farming, seeds are sown in neat lines with a carefully calculated distance between them, designed to maximise growth and minimise waste. The sower in the parable takes a very different approach.” Today’s farming methods are so different, technology has improved farming skills – for example the use of drones to identify where growing patterns are different – so that area of planting can be helped. “He ‘broadcasts’ his seeds, casting them far and wide. Not precise, and lacking in the finesse of a modern farmer, but this approach means that the seeds travel a significant distance. How might we broadcast our message of salvation far and wide? How might modern communication help us to broadcast?” I think in some ways the answer has become a little clearer in Lockdown – we must use every tool at our disposal, use our Church to re-charge our batteries & then spread the word with every means at our disposal.
“Although this parable is ‘explained’ by Jesus, there is a tension between hearing a parable and fully understanding it. The parables (in general) seem designed to carry ambiguity or mystery. They invite us to keep thinking about what they might mean – both for Jesus’ audience and for us in the 2020s. It is not all completely explained. We need to think about what the thorns are in our contemporary world, and what forms of persecution might draw someone away from God. We may want everything explained, but that is not how the parables work. How might this have an impact on the way we communicate God to others and convey some of the mystery of his kingdom?”
Hidden out if site is the recurring story of Christians being persecuted worldwide, we must continue to pray for all those suffering persecution – but also remember that persecution comes in many forms – I am proud to be a Christian, even if over my life it has caused issues for me issues of trust & confidence – we hopefully continue to learn & to understand – these current times have I think caused those with faith and those without to review where they stand, but put very simply we just have to remember to stand tall, just as the seed will grow strong and tall if we nurture it. On a lighter note I have been growing Rudbekia from seed for the last few years, this spring I grew a dwarf version, but I have found that although a lot have grown straight and true some have not they have needed support, just as we need support. I refer back to my opening words.
“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you”
“The final part of the parable describes three different yields resulting from seed planted in good soil – one hundredfold, sixtyfold and thirtyfold. What would it look like in your church to experience this level of growth? What would have to change? How would we have to adapt? Are we actually hungry for growth such as this, or have we become comfortable with the yields we currently experience?”
This is so relevant to now, what will our future look like, I am reminded of a story told to me in Northern Ireland. It’s much too long to tell now, but the bottom line was a church of 7 became a Church of 250 via Music, some of you will remember that story, it inspired me – so don’t let us just be comfortable – lets ensure our virtual seeds are scattered wide, if we all perform an act of kindness & I know for a fact that a lot of us have, then we are spreading Gods word at the same time.
In God’s eye, today and every day.
In Christ’s footsteps, today and every day.
Blessed by the Spirit, now and for ever.
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communicating aspects of the kingdom of God. Parables consist of short narratives to illustrate a point. Sometimes the elements in the narrative are explicitly identified as pictures of, or metaphors for, something that helps us understand the meaning. Sometimes the meanings are explained, while at other times they are not spelt out. For example, several of these parables concern seeds, but the picture language, or metaphor, of a seed is used in varying ways in the different parables. For this reason, it is important to take each parable as a whole to determine its meaning, rather than focusing on single words or taking the metaphors too far.”
Those that have attended church when I have lead a service will be very aware that I find the use of props very useful to me, I have an art background – so I like the idea of using story boards to light up my sermon, words sometimes get lost in the message – but a picture well that’s another matter altogether. Many of our Ministers & visiting lay preachers over the years have brought seeds in, some have allowed us to take them home to see how they germinate.
The first half of this week’s reading presents the picture, familiar to Jesus’ audience, of someone sowing seed, probably throwing it across each side of the ground as they walked along a path of beaten earth through a field. Jesus notes reasons, within the story, why the seed falling in each of four different places might be more or less productive. He then calls on the crowd to listen (v.9).
“The second half of the reading jumps a few verses to where, having answered the disciples’ question about why he uses parables, Jesus calls them to ‘hear’ the parable (it is the same root word as that translated ‘listen’ in v.9) and he proceeds to explain it. This is where our tidy categories of meaning fail us; it is meaningless to argue whether the germinating seed (v.21) or the soil type (v.19) represent the person. The wording is ambiguous but the meaning is clear. The different growing situations are metaphors for different responses to the word of the kingdom. As such, they help explain why Jesus’ message is not received with acclaim by all of Israel. Various factors affected how the same ‘seed’ of God’s word fared in different circumstances in Jesus’ time: distraction by forces against God, by hostility from others, by worries of life and concern for wealth. Beyond that, we may find that the parable helps us understand why people outside the Church today respond in varying ways to the gospel, and it may also reflect how Christians feel that they respond to the ongoing call of God on their lives. This range of potential applicability reflects the power of a good parable. It can speak to various situations in differing ways – but all may be fruitful.”
There can be no better example of how we should act as Christians if we use the example of the seed. But also that image of Jesus having to get into a boat – because so many people were there, like the image above reminds us of the climate affecting how we worship moving forward, we will have some form of social distancing, there will be many changes in the short to medium term but whatever our Church looks like as we move forward we must all remember we are the “seeds” we have to grow our Church, it’s just that we may have to find new ways of doing that.
The links between the readings
We use pictures to communicate ideas all the time. Isaiah and the psalmist both make poetic use of pictures to speak of abstract concepts, such as God’s word, or to express the way in which they saw the whole of creation giving praise to God. Paul uses metaphors of walking and dwelling to speak of the ways in which believers’ lives are bound up with the Spirit of God. Jesus, the master storyteller, conjures up pictures to communicate deep truths about people and about the work of God. We shall see more over the next two weeks.
Part 3 will be posted on Saturday
I am writing this Blog on Wednesday 1st July 2020, I have been putting down my thoughts in this format since the start of lock-down, I mentioned in my last blog the respect I hold for all those able to do this week in week out, always enabled ways of reaching out in words & deeds. As mentioned previously I have decided to reduce to two blogs a month in July and I will see how I feel by August. Our world has changed a lot in many ways, but in some sense it’s exactly the same. I have been involved with a Covid-19 study via UCL it askes very many diverse questions – the analysis of this data drives some of the information that our Government uses, what has struck me are the references to mental health, how do I feel day to day, what support am I getting. So while we are coming out of lockdown – I am still deeply concerned for my wife’s health – but at some stage we will both have to face up to our new world.
I spotted this saying the other day, I should have noted the source but forgot but hear goes anyway “Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you”
In the current climate we all can recognize what is wrong about this picture ( the dreaded social distancing) We as Christians have found new ways of worshiping over the last 100 days, we are all still Christians, Covid- 19 hasn’t changed that, but it has for the time being changed our relationship with our Church, when we meet again in our Church Sanctuary the rules will have changed – the picture above will change those children will be the correct distance apart, we will have to have a Risk Assessment to confirm how worship can take place, we will have to follow the guidance of both the Government and the URC – and we will have to be guided as individuals as to how we approach “ Church” I have always said when leading worship, that our real work Is away from our building, but now having spent so long not being able to worship in that old familiar way I have to say I am missing our Church community, but in the meantime we have all found new ways to worship.
Sorry about these initial ramblings, I think I should now get down to the matter in hand.
The lectionary readings for today are as follows: Isaiah 55: 10-13, Psalm 65: (1-8), 9-13, Romans 8: 1-11, Mathew 13: 1-9, 18-23. I will be using the reading from Mathew for a reference point in this blog.
Part 2 will be posted on Thursday
“Jesus ‘sent out’ the disciples. This week’s Gospel reading is about what happens when they arrive!
What do you expect to happen when you arrive at someone’s front door? Will you have to take off your shoes, or wipe them on a mat? Perhaps you have a gift to give the host – how will it be received? How do those various actions make you feel? How do you feel if they don’t happen? Now, with the boot on the other foot, what if you are giving the welcome? If you are the person opening the door – what do you do or say? Do you take their coat, or offer a drink? Does it depend on who is at the door? Who might it be hard to welcome in?”
In the current climate we are not able to fulfil the instructions given here, we are all having to find other ways of discipleship – and until that time when we can worship together it is absolutely vital that we stay strong in our faith, that we are kind and generous of spirit. We don’t need a building to do Gods work, but I do look forward to the day when we can worship together.
“Jesus stresses the importance of ‘going out’, of interacting with others. He refers to ‘whoever welcomes you’ – and that leaves room for those who don’t! In what sense do we ‘go in the name of Jesus’? Is Jesus reflected in us, in our words and actions, or do we need specifically to say who we are? A country’s new ambassador, meeting the Queen for the first time, will always offer her their ‘credentials’ – assuring her that she can trust them to speak on behalf of those who sent them. What credentials can we offer to show that we are sent by Jesus?”
I think all of us have the credentials we just have to be patient we will worship together again but in the meantime let’s continue to be our Lords disciples. Jesus says “whoever welcomes you” at this time that’s not in a place of worship but we mast welcome all into our hearts, interacting with others with all the tools at our disposal.
Singing off for now, I will complete a single Blog in July.
Spirit of fire, warm us with your
Spirit of fire, warm us with your everlasting love.
Spirit of wind, blow away hurtful words that
Spirit of earthquake, carry away our fears.
Spirit of breeze, restore our peace with your
Spirit of the living God, speak to us in words
we can understand.
Go in the name of Jesus,
Go in the name of Jesus,
to follow the way of Jesus,
to love with the love of Jesus,
and to be sustained by the peace of Jesus.
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The Gospel reading I am looking at today is taken from Mathew 10: 40-42, other lectionary readings that you may want to look at are as follows: Jeremiah 28: 5-9, Psalm 89: 1-4, 15-18. Romans 6: 12-23.
Gospel Matthew 10. 40 -42
“This short excerpt, which closes the block of Jesus’ teaching on mission in Matthew’s Gospel, mirrors the beginning of last week’s Gospel reading (10.24-39). That passage began (10.24-25) by discussing how those who reject Jesus will act the same way towards his followers. This week’s verses discuss how those who respond positively to the disciples will be understood to have welcomed Jesus. Moreover, in a line that demonstrates a high view of Christ, those who welcome Jesus are understood to be welcoming the one who sent him; that is, God the Father. Jesus is God’s mediator.
If the welcome is made on the basis that the one received is a prophet or a righteous person, then the host might expect a reward; it is not clear if that is the reward due to a prophet/righteous person themselves, or that which a prophet might give to those who receive them (as seen in some Old Testament stories – e.g. 1 Kings 17.8-24; 2 Kings 4.8-37). Either way, it is a promise of reward and this is probably intended in the sense of a consequence at the end of the age.
The passage highlights again the importance, in that culture, of offering hospitality. The reference to giving water, which was the basic requirement of hospitality then as now (and for which no reward would be expected), is echoed in Matthew 25.35-40, speaking of the time ‘when the Son of Man comes in his glory’. Jesus welcomes and rewards those who, in giving a drink to one of his ‘brothers’, are viewed as having ministered to Jesus himself.”
The links between the readings
The Gospel and Old Testament readings are both concerned with the ways in which the people of God who bring the message of God are received by others. As such, they demonstrate that the reception is not always positive, but, at the end of the age, there will be profound consequences for the recipients. The Romans’ passage discusses the response of the believer to their new status in Christ; should they continue to live as they used to, effectively remaining slaves to sin? Or should they act in the way appropriate to their new status and consider themselves slaves of righteousness? Each of these options will also have consequences at the end-time.
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The steadfast love of the Lord is established forever.
His faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.
The Lord invites us and welcomes us.
Let us worship the Lord.
In the name of……………………………………?
The gift of following.
You have given me a disciples tongue to speak words which build up a word planted in the right season.
You have given me a disciple’s ear to listen for your guidance through each changing scene.
You have given me a disciple’s heart to prefer your way rather than to turn back and give up.
You have given me a disciple’s peace to accept mockery and unjust blows without retaliation.
Lord, help me to follow where you lead, using the best of our gifts to remain faithful to the end.
Taken from Season of the Spirit adapted by Richard Church (Isaiah 50: 4-9a)
I am writing this blog on Wednesday 17th June, as I look back to March 23rd, the day lockdown started for me & Pauline, I set myself the task of writing a blog per week, one thing I have learnt of many varied things is how difficult it is to write fresh thoughts every week, I have the greatest respect for all those ordained and lay preachers that are able to do that.
I was concerned at the start of the year about achieving the goal of nine sermons, during these last weeks I have found it very beneficial to put my thoughts on paper, aware that my audience may be small, but happy in my own mind that in some small way I was acting in a Christian way. During the last few weeks reality has started to kick in, we as a Church have been looking at if & how we can open for prayer, this has & does involve a lot of work, we ask our Lords guidance to do what is correct & proper, as you read this part one of my blog the answers to those questions may already be in place, add onto that my own Trust work and my work on the Huguenot council and suddenly things are starting to rack up, so it is with a certain amount of sadness that I felt this would be my last weekly blog for a time, I intend to follow on with a Monthly blog, and by then let us all pray that we will find a way to be able to worship together, it is a different world & I personally feel that we have over these weeks benefited greatly as a Church Family from pastoral contact, with John sending out the weekly news sheet including the URC devotions, and from being able to watch & listen to God words through many media channels.
You might now be thinking let’s get on with it? So I will start we have an image of a door, in today’s world we tend to be security conscious. In the past your doors may have been unlocked all the time, I was brought up in Ilford, my mother had been an Nurse during the war, she became a go to person for so many things, from birth to death, we had people down our road with may skill sets all of which were utilized at one time or the other. Now our homes are identified as places of privacy and retreat, social action would normally take place elsewhere maybe on neutral ground, not so through the pandemic, face to face meetings have been on hold, and only recently have families been able to meet up ( socially distanced of course) Jesus would under normal circumstances stress the importance of going out and interacting with others “ whoever welcomes you” we may not be able to go out in the name of Jesus, knocking on the imaginary door – but we can all still spread his love in so many other ways.
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“‘Lifestyle choices’. What kind of consequences do the choices have – good or not so good? Do you stick with some choices even though there are not so good, or even bad, consequences? Advertising for lifestyle choices certainly tells you about the good things – does it ever tell about the not so good?”
So now let’s talk about the Huguenots who lived in Spitalfields, they were not there out of choice, most were driven there because they were excluded from worshiping in the way they deemed correct, some came for economic reasons but the vast early majority came to escape from faith tyranny They believed that God would watch over their lives, that God would keep them safe, they were on the whole very different from the London norm of the time, they grew plants in there cramped houses, they loved the sound of captive song birds, mimicking the clatter of the looms. Some kept to their faith, some drifted out of faith but for the majority their faith kept them grounded it was a relatively short period in history, but just as we reflect on the time of Jesus and are sometimes perplexed having more questions than answers, so might we be as we look at the History of the Huguenots across Europe.
“To be a follower of Jesus is a lifestyle choice. Jesus spelt out the challenging realities of being his disciple with both good and not so good news. The good news is that we are hugely valued by God, and God knows every detail of our lives. So, never be afraid, Jesus says – God loves you. On the other hand, the not so good news, he says, is that it is not easy to be a disciple. What do you think some of the risks and dangers are?”
But when we reflect on History and that will include the current pandemic, do we have the thought at the forefront of our mind that Jesus keeps us safe, do we question our faith, I think we all need someone to help us get up and over the obstacles that are put in our way just as the picture in part 1 identifies.
“Jesus’ advert is realistic: he doesn’t offer a life without problems. Rather he promises to help us through the difficulties we will meet. We are not immune from the problems everyone has to face (for example, health issues and death/loss). And there are additional challenges created by living out our faith. Jesus encourages us to recognise them – to be forewarned – and to face them with a resilience that comes from an assurance of our value in God’s sight.”
So maybe we are a little like pencils, maybe we need to reflect on that and how we write our own pencil story, we are living in very difficult times but we have to keep our Faith, the lead in our pencil should be for writing good, for being understanding and for forgiving, one final referral to my Huguenot ancestors, weaving went through highs and lows ( some Golden periods) but at the end the 19th Century nearly everything was gone, most descended into poverty in both wealth and faith terms, we have to endure to keep our faith and climb those obstacles.
May you have discernment to see whom to serve.
May you have wisdom to know how to serve.
May you have strength to serve as a faithful disciple of the Lord
Jesus Christ. Amen.
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The Gospel Reading I am looking at is taken from Mathew 10: 24-39, other lectionary readings that you may want to look at are: Jeremiah 20: 7-13, Psalm 69: 7-10, (11-15), 16-18. Romans 6: 1b-11
Gospel Matthew 10.24-39
“This reading continues Jesus’ teaching to the disciples about mission. The first section focuses on the identification of the disciples with their teacher – if he has been persecuted and maligned, then they must expect the same, especially to the degree that they emulate him. Beelzebul (Lord of the House) is derived from the Philistine Baal, and by Jesus’ time had come to be used to refer to a demonic force hostile to God. So the slander is effectively saying that Jesus was in league with God’s enemies.
Jesus goes on to reassure and encourage them. The gospel of the kingdom is being revealed so they should not be afraid, even of physical death. (It is unclear whether the one who can destroy both body and soul (v.28) refers to God or to demonic powers.) Sparrows being one of the cheapest things to buy, Jesus’ followers are obviously of much more value than sparrows. And yet, God knows when a sparrow falls and how many hairs there are on the disciples’ heads. So, they can be sure that God will watch over their lives.”
I will refer in part 3 of the Blog to a fantastic book called “Spitalfields by Dan Cruikshank, he looks into the history of Spitalfields through the eyes of the buildings, in some ways this is part of my own history, where my forbears toiled as weavers, the life of the Huguenot in the time after the Edict of Nantes was a harrowing one, this is not the time for a history lesson but I will in part 3 show some comparisons with the passage from Mathew.
“In the culture of that time, one’s family was one’s primary unit of belonging – there was much less focus on individuals, and their wants and desires, and more on family honour and prestige. In light of that, Jesus’ acknowledgement of those who acknowledge him to the world can be seen as a statement of acceptance by Jesus’ Father into God’s family. Then we have further comments on the possibilities of the gospel bringing family strife (cf. Micah 7.6 and expectations that this would be a feature of the end of the age). Loyalty to Jesus is more important than the culturally important claims of blood relatives. Following Jesus is the primary call in life; whoever is not prepared to set aside anything else in life that interrupts the claim of Christ will not be worthy of the kingdom.”
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O Lord, we enter into your steadfast love, asking that you will respond to our prayers; we trust in your abundant mercy and ask that you will come to us.
O Lord, make your presence known to us;
draw near to us; redeem us, set us free;
for we seek to be your faithful disciples.
I follow this with some words from: Tides & Seasons by David Adam
I weave into my life this day
The presence of God upon my way,
I weave into my life this hour
The mighty God and all his power.
I weave into my sore distress
His peace and calm and no less.
I weave into my step so lame
Healing and helping of His name.
I weave into the darkness of night
Strands of God shining bright,
I weave into each deed done
Joy and hope of the Risen Son.
I have started writing the blog for the 21st June on Monday 8th June, while going for my morning walk I listened to Father Brian D’Arcy on Radio 2 giving his pause for thought I won’t dwell on the actual pause for thought but was impressed with his description of what a pencil is, how it is made up and most importantly how that translated into his pause for thought, it was very clever. How do you think a pencil could relate to our own faith, the lead in the pencil could be our inner faith, when we use the pencil are we writing our faith in the way we live our lives, if we have to sharpen the pencil is that a way of reminding us to always look at ourselves and finally if we do make a mistake while writing we can use an eraser to remove the incorrect message, I think that’s what Jesus does for us, the preceding thoughts about the pencil are partly mine but are mostly Brian’s – how would you describe yourself if you were a pencil?
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Notes from an address preached by the Rev. Ronald M. Ward, B.D. Originally published in the April 1951 issue of Progress, the monthly magazine for Romford Congregational Church.
"Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray Him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein." - John XII, 4-6
Judas protested at the lovely action of Mary, who anointed the feet of Jesus with costly ointment and wiped them with her hair. He protested in the name of charity, in the name of the needy, and the destitute and he protested in the presence of One who had said "Blessed are the poor," and, to the lawyer who heard the story of the Good Samaritan, "Go, and do thou likewise."
Now generosity is a Christian virtue, but the generosity of Judas, so Christian in appearance, is nevertheless only a mask for his own greed. Perhaps he himself is not aware of this. Possibly his voice has a ring of sincere conviction in it when he condemns useless extravagance. But, nevertheless, the Evangelist is at pains to tell us, the sentiment does not move from a Christian centre.
There are other stories in the New Testament which show how Christian virtue can be a mask, behind which Christ recognises an enemy. No doubt Peter felt within himself that he was moved by pure friendship when he rebuked Jesus for speaking of His approaching passion and death. "Be it far from Thee Lord; this shall not be unto Thee." Love, the supreme Christian value, seems to prompt him, and one can almost imagine the disciple slipping an affectionate hand through his Master's arm as he speaks. "But He turned and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan; thou art an offence unto Me." Evidently Peter's "love" was very painful to our Lord at this moment. Christian in appearance it concealed a refusal to accept the Cross. So it was a mask on the face of an enemy.
On the night of Christ's betrayal and arrest, however, Peter finds the courage to draw a sword and wound a servant of the High Priest. Not always did he feel so brave. But with his Master by his side he does not fear to risk his life.
Courage is a Christian quality. Most of us fail sadly for lack of it from time to time. Nevertheless our Lord again rebukes Peter. Perhaps He sees behind the mask of courage the face of hatred and fear. It is by love that Christ must conquer or not at all.
You will remember the story of the Prodigal son, and how the elder brother complains that he has been unfairly treated. Is it just, he says, that one who has served faithfully for so long should be treated with less favour than a reckless, pleasure-loving lad, who has "wasted his living with harlots?" If this is a plea for justice and fair play, a protest against privilege and favouritism, it has a Christian ring about it. But the father in the story knows his son. He recognises, behind the mask of justice, the face of envy. He gently chides him: "It was meet that we should make merry and be glad; for this thy brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found."
Were the disciples pleased with themselves, I wonder, when John reported to the Master, "We saw one casting out devils in Thy name, and he followeth not with us: and we forbad him because he followeth not us." They were trying to express their loyalty to Christ by this action, and loyalty is a Christian virtue. But on this occasion our Lord does not accept it. "Forbid him not ... he that is not against us is on our part." May it be that behind the mask of loyalty is the face of jealousy? Did the disciples secretly resent the success of this unorthodox stranger who "followeth not with us"? Perhaps a measure of our denominational zeal hides the same sin.
A good deal of apparently Christian behaviour fails to be Christian became it does not find its source in Christ. It was not devotion to Christ which moved Judas to advocate the Christian grace of charity; nor was it Christ who inspired Peter's courage in the garden of Agony. We must not identify Christianity too easily with an appearance of Christian virtue. Christianity points beyond virtue, beyond all morality even.
The Gospel bids us look behind behaviour to the source of inspiration before we decide what belongs to Christ and what does not. Is Mary, wastefully anointing the feet of the Lord, a better symbol for Christianity than are the benefits of a Welfare State? Perhaps. Certainly the mask of Christian virtue may conceal hostility to the true purpose of Christ. One can be virtuous without being good. One can be religious without having faith. It may be that the best refuge from faith is a religion, and the best refuge from Christ a Christian ideal.
Religion itself can conceal atheism, like a blind drawn in an empty house.