Prayers during the day 21st February Lent 1

Lent 1 prayer during the day

Did you make pancakes this week? We love pancakes at the Vicarage and usually make a big deal of getting everyone’s favourite fillings* together on the table and then we share making them and eating them together. This year we did the pancake event two weeks early as it was important for us to all be together rather than on the right day. And that has been something that has happened time and time again this past year. We can’t celebrate when we want to. We can’t be with the people we want to be with. So much that is important about being family and community has been taken away by the pandemic.

This has all meant that the beginning of Lent and this week’s reading about Jesus going into the desert did not fill me with joy. As far as giving things up I made this poster for the outside of the church. If you don’t want to give up anything for Lent then this vicar is giving you permission because we have already given up so much this year.

One thing I’ve noticed this year is the speed at which our reading from Mark 1 9-15 goes from triumph to desolation. We hear about Jesus’ baptism and affirmation as the beloved son but next moment Jesus is driven into the desert to be tempted.  This year I wanted Jesus to have a bit more of the good stuff before he was off to the long hard road in the desert. This may say more about me than the gospel but it is indicative of pandemic fatigue; that we are nearly a year into living with restrictions and lockdown.

Yet the desert is a powerful place of change and transformation. It is the place where the early church fathers ran to find Jesus when their world became too comfortable. It is the place where without distractions we are alone with God. It is the place where we are ourselves. We are ourselves without the social mask as there is no one to be social with. We are present before God as we are in all our imperfections and faults. No wonder the desert is a hard place and it is seem as a place to be avoided or rushed through.

As we begin to think about how we might find a new normal perhaps we might reflect on how the past year has been a desert. For many it has been very hard. Part of the recovery from trauma is to name what has been difficult. Others may well have had it harder but to deny that this last year has been costly will keep us in denial and out of touch with who we are as beloved children of God going through a unique moment in history.

If we can name what is costly we might be able to find some wisdom and truth in the desert. This isn’t easy but some questions to ask might be:

What have we learnt about ourselves?

What have been our distractions?

What were our temptations?

This is not easy work. We hear how in the desert the angels waited on Jesus so it is ok to find this hard.

The strange thing about trauma is that afterwards; after the frantic coping, the grieving and the lament there is the moment when we come out of the desert, the dark place and say ‘and yet.’ And yet I learnt that God is with me, and yet I learnt that I have good neighbours and yet I am more resilient that I thought I could be

Jesus went into the desert. After struggle and hard times he went into the next stage of his ministry. How might we learn from the desert experience we have been in and are perhaps still in and live in the next stage of our Christian lives?

If that feels very challenging it is worth remembering that in Charlie Mackesy’s book The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse, the boy asks the horse a question: “’What is the bravest thing you’ve ever said? asked the boy. ‘Help,’ said the horse.” If you are feeling in need of help, be brave and ask for it.

These words come from later in Jesus’ ministry ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’

Have a blessed, desert Lent

*butter and marmite in case you were wondering.

 

Mark 1.9-15In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’

 

Prayer During the Day 14th February

service 14 2 21

This week’s service is in podcast form. The vicar is feeling a bit rough and waiting for a covid test to come back so this was one way of getting the service uploaded. We discovered that pauses don’t work too well in this for so if you need longer to reflect after a reading please hit the pause button. We may use podcasting again and will give ‘how to signal a pause without using lots of silence so that people think you have fallen asleep’ some thought. God bless!

 

A Reflection on the Transfiguration for Valentine’s Day by Revd Vanessa Cole

Love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day is upon us.

It would be easy to think that Valentine was the founder of Hallmark (or vice versa) and that love is something which can only be expressed through excessive gifts and dates at luxurious restaurants and hotels. These may certainly be expressions of love (and if your love language is ‘gifts’ then well appreciated ones), but love is so much more.

The marriage service begins with a line about love: God is love and those who live in love live in God.

Love ‘lifts us up’ according to the ballads and love songs. Love is where we find ourselves, our ‘other halves’ (a cliché that particularly riles me), home, heaven… Love is kind, love is gentle, love bears no record of wrongs, according to St Paul’s Hymn to Love.

But today I want to think about how love transforms us. It has been said that every woman is beautiful on he wedding day. It is more than just the expensive dress and hours spent in the beauticians chair. The joy that emanates from a blushing bride as she basks in the love of her brand new husband, would outshine the most lavishly dressed beauty queen.

Love isn’t just for newly weds and love birds, or even for fortunate Valentines; the love that transforms, transcends the every day is a gift from God for each and every one of us.

In this week’s gospel passage Jesus himself is transformed by the Father’s love. In a prophecy-fulfilling moment Jesus takes his closest disciples up a mountain, a high mountain Mark tells us, and as they reach the top something unbelievable happens: so unbelievable that Peter, James and John are told not to mention the incident to any of the others when they re-join them.

At the top of this mountain something quite literally awesome happens to Jesus: his clothes become dazzlingly white as he is ‘transfigured’. The disciples’ spiritual heroes stand alongside Jesus, despite being long gone. Peter is flustered and says too much, the others are silenced. The man before them is no longer their friend, their teacher, their rabbi… the humanity seems to fall from Jesus as his deity quite literally shines through.

As wonder-ful as this moment is, there is more to come: the cloud of God’s presence comes over them all and God the Father speaks the most treasured words any of us can ever hope to hear:  This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him! MARK 9:7

Within each of us is a need to be loved. We can pretend that we are independent, that we don’t care, that we are happy being single, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t also need to be loved. At this time of year we can often confuse passion and lust with love, but as stirring as they can be they cannot replace the un-conditional love that God bestowed upon Jesus, and if we were only aware, has for us too.

The love that Father God bathed Jesus in on that mountainside quite clearly had a very physical impact upon him, but love goes deeper than the skin. When we come to God the Father and open our hearts to him, we too can bathe in that transformational love: Love that doesn’t seek anything in return, love that doesn’t have to be bought or earned, love that will not remove itself upon a whim. The love of God is love at its purest, its truest: love that sees us for who we are and who we can become with a little TLC.

If Valentines day is making you feel less than lovely, then these words are for you:       This is my child, the Beloved.

Our clothes may not become dazzling white, and we have no deity to shine through. It is highly unlikely that any prophets will appear alongside us. That doesn’t mean that God can’t transform us though. Throughout the Bible we hear the stories of people who were thought of as not just unlovable, but untouchable. As Jesus came near them, their outer shells fell away as the love transformed them into children of God.

As children of God it is our inheritance to live in love, and to spread that love to others who are feeling unlovable. Jesus called his first disciples to love their neighbour, to love their enemies. This Valentines I hope and pray that you feel as beloved of God as did Jesus that moment on the mountainside, but also that you can share the love with those round you. Times are tough, many are feeling low and is if they are running on empty. Isolation and loneliness are the silent side effects of the pandemic, people need our love.

This Valentines we have a new challenge: to reclaim the gift of love from the market place and do whatever we can to bathe our neighbourhoods and communities with God’s abundant love

Prayers During the Day for Sunday 7th February

Here is the link to the service sheet. The reflection for Creation Sunday is below the video
service 7 2 21

 

Reflection for Creation Sunday Colossians 1 15-17

Today is Creation Sunday. As Christians we believe that God pushed the start button of Creation. How this all happens is the work of the scientist but  with the core belief that Creation is God’s work and as such is precious, is key for  Christians. It should affect how we behave.

The great hymn of praise to Jesus at the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Colossians reminds us that God is in all and that Jesus is God.

Christ is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn of all creation;
for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created,
things visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers
– all things have been created through him and for him.
He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians1.15-17

We hear the same themes of Creation and Jesus as God in our gospel reading

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. John 1 1-3

This week we have seen a few spring days as January left the building and February gave us hints of the spring to come.  On my walks around the parish there have been the natural sculptures of bare branches against the blue sky and the first spring flowers in the gardens. Creation in beautiful and it has been easy to worship the Creator God outside. It won’t be long before the warm weather is here and lockdown begins to be lifted and we can return to life as it was. But should we?

I was at a theology lecture this week where the question was asked ‘what do we want to keep from our lockdown experience and what do we want to lose?’ That is a big question. It applies to national life, church life and our individual lives so there is lots to think about and it will take time. What I took away from that evening was the need to pause, to consider and to reflect on the experience of lockdown, how we got here and only then, look to the future. The temptation will be to try and recreate the old normal and pretend that the last twelve months didn’t happen. This was what happened a hundred years ago when the Spanish flu pandemic was forgotten as people raced into the roaring twenties.

If creation is not chance but the work and intent of the divine then perhaps we need to treat it as something to be wondered and worked with rather than used and abused. Perhaps on this Creation Sunday we need to remember that this world is God’s Creation and not ours. Our role is as good stewards of that creation. As stewards of Creation how do we prevent another pandemic? What conditions of animal husbandry led to crossover of the virus from animal to human and how might that be changed? How might we in our individual and local lives work with the natural world around us, rather than using it and letting others deal with the damage?

These are big questions and what we might do that is work in progress, but pausing to wonder at the beauty of Creation and worshipping the one who made in – Father, Son and Holy Spirit is a good place to start our journey out of lockdown. Let’s press the pause button.

We act because we worship, not worship after acting.

Pause.

Prayer During the Day Sunday 31st January

service 31 1 21

What do we mean by authority? Who has it? Why do they have it?

These are key questions for our time as we live in a pandemic. There is so much fake news around that we need to know who is giving us information. When it comes to vaccine safety do we listen to Kevin the Keyboard Warrior or Chrissie that we meet in the Co-op. The people tell us that Covid19  is fake and the hospitals are empty. Or do we listen to the scientists and doctors who are working in labs and hospitals? Who has the authority to help us make decisions that can have a huge impact on our lives and the lives of others?

Thanks to the Downing Street News Briefings, we now know the names of some of our top scientists and epidemiologists. The people who spend all day in labs and in front of students are now in front of the nation. The authority they have is twofold. They have positional authority because of the roles they have and they have relational authority because of what they do.

An example is Chris Whitty the UK’sChief Medical Officer. He has a role because he has studied medicine. If you are sick you go to a doctor.

We all know some professionals who know lots of stuff yet are actually not that much good in the day to day work. In my own field of vicaring I have priest friends who are fabulous theologians yet are seriously out of practice in doing funerals. At a funeral you need someone who cares not a clever sermon.

In the case of Chris Whitty we found out in the news that he has been volunteering in a North London respiratory ward. He has relational authority because of what he does. He has seen the effects of the pandemic on people with serious Covid infections first hand and not just in statistics.

Anyone in leadership has both types of authority. Those in leadership know that they have to use them wisely. I can insist that something is done because I’m the vicar and the buck stops with me. Mostly that is not the best way to use authority. A better way is to show what can be done, listen to people and work together. This is what Joe Biden meant in his inauguration speech when he said ‘we’ll lead not merely by the example of our power, but the power of our example.’ Leaders need to do as well as be.

In our reading from the gospel today, a story from the beginning of Mark’s gospel we hear that Jesus has authority based on who he is. No one in the synagogue that day has any inkling that the one who is teaching the scripture is the one who was present at the making of the world but the demons who are present in an afflicted man do. Jesus has positional authority because of who he is, the son of God and the second person in the trinity. But he also has authority in what he does – he heals the man and continues to heal and teach and practice compassion and love throughout his ministry.

As we make decisions about the pandemic can we think about where we get our information from – scientists or keyboard warriors.

As we make our decisions about faith can we go back to the person of Jesus because of who he is and does? A person of goodness, love and healing.

 

Sunday 24th January 2021- link, service and reflection

Service 24 1 21

This week’s gospel reading is the familiar story of a wedding where there is almost a disaster and Jesus saves the day by turning water into wine. There are many layers to the story. It is a miracle and points to who Jesus is, not just Mary’s son but something so much more. It points to God’s overwhelming generosity and abundance; the wine is really good and there is a lot of it. It points to the importance of healing in community as the couple risk shame in their honour based society if the wedding is not up to expectations. But what does it say to us stuck at home in lockdown not able to go to weddings and parties or even just pop out for a coffee and hug a friend?

This week as I wrestled with this story I am really grateful to Margaret Silf’s book Soul Journeys which is a new Lent book for 2020. She reflects that the story begins with emptiness – the stone jars of water that have to be filled and the wine jars that have been emptied by the guests. Emptiness is something that many are feeling at the moment. If we are thinking of the Christian life and spiritual journey as transformation, then emptiness can be the space where new things can happen. If we are on a journey can we start the journey by letting go of what we are grieving for and those things that we can’t do right now. Some day we can go back to those things but right now there is space to try something different. It means taking a glass half full rather than a glass half empty view. I can’t do this anymore or I’m too tired to do this and that is sad, but I could try this.

So here is a new way of looking at this story using the image of the water jar.

At the beginning of the story these jars are empty. They are full of space. Can we see that as a gift of space for something new?

The water jars don’t fill themselves. In the story Jesus tells the steward to fill them with water. Can the act of waiting to be filled be seen as a spiritual act? Of not rushing to fill the jars with any old rubbish and hold my hand up to watching far too much TV in lockdown, but giving the soul space and quiet to listen and to be filled?

The steward fills the jars with something very simple, water. As we hold that space in the emptiness can we slow down enough to enjoy the simple things such as the beauty of the outside world. The frost on the ground and plants has been really beautiful this week as have the branches of the trees against the blue skies

It is said that practicing gratitude can help improve mental health so can you look back each day and find three simple things you are grateful for?

The water in the jars are transformed, not by anything they did but by the presence of the living God in Jesus. We live in a culture of doing and achieving and acquiring. Can we at this time of lockdown embrace space and the simple and just be? We know that good wine takes years to grow on the vine and then mature in the bottle so perhaps the image of water into wine is one of patience however hard that can be.

One day we will party and there will be good wine and good company but for today can we take that image of the empty water jar and make it part of our transformation knowing that Jesus was not only at the party but in the backroom with those big water jars transforming what they contain into something extra ordinary and is part of a wider healing.

There was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.

When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’

Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’  And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it.

When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’

Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.                                                 John 2.1-11

 Images – free bible images
Margaret Silf Soul Journey with Scripture and Story (2020)

 

Sunday 17th January 2021

service 17 1 21

One of the hardest things in prayer is to listen.  It is really easy to tell God what we want and what we think God should do but it is really hard to listen to what God might be saying to us. In today’s reading Samuel hears the call of God but mistakes it for his master Eli.

It can be hard to know how to listen to and make sense of the news let alone to God in prayer!  An increasingly digital world should have given us access to so much information from so many viewpoints yet it seems that we mostly live in our echo chambers listening to the views that reflect our own. It can be hard work to hear the views of others. This week I have found myself reading a lot of commentary on the events in the Capitol Building in the USA on the 6th January. The raw footage of what happened is available on the net. The opinions of those who truly believe that the election of Joe Biden was fraudulent can be read or viewed. It is easy to dismiss others as wrong before we start to listen and that frames what we hear.

There is a great deal of wisdom in our reading for today when faced with uncertainty. Eli is a flawed man. His time as a leader is not covered in glory yet he recognises that God is speaking to Samuel. It would have been so easy to ignore the child who was kept waking him up. Although the word of God is rare at this time Eli trusts that it is God speaking and he encourages the child to listen. That takes humility and courage.

God could have had a message for Samuel about how Eli had failed yet Eli gives the child the permission to listen and the freedom to do that without someone else getting in the way. Flawed as he was Eli was a man of prayer and able to put his agenda to one side so that young Samuel could become the prophet who would speak truth to power.

Can we be more Eli?

There is hope that our current lockdown will be eased with the roll out of the vaccine. The world has changed. What will our calling be in this new world and how do we hear it? Time to look to our listening? Who knows where it will lead…

 

Sunday 10th January 2021

The church is closed for public worship. Our Sunday service is simple to allow those who have no online access to take part as well as those who can use phones, tablets and computers to access it.

Service 11th Jan  yes it is the wrong date but it is the right service!

Revd Karen’s reflection on Mark 1 4-11 is below the video

This week’s gospel tells of how John baptises Jesus in the river Jordan. The text is at the end of this blog past.

washing

John calls for repentance and the forgiveness of sins and this is done with water. Washing is a very powerful metaphor in 2021. There is clean water. There is soap. There is time spent pausing to do something routine and simple. The miracle is that this act breaks down the surface of the virus that has killed so many people and destroys it. Washing is a powerful symbol in the Christian faith and a very effective tool in the fight against the Corona virus.

In the Church of England, we often baptise babies so the sense that in baptism is about washing away sin makes no sense as babies are not yet able to make decisions about what they do or what they don’t do. This is why some parts of the church only baptise adults. In the gospel John is calling for repentance and it is following that repentance that baptism can take place – the past is washed away and there is a new start. Of course we are only human and we make mistakes again but the important part is that we acknowledge that we are at fault.

In this week where we have seen deaths from CV19 hit record highs in the UK and the storming of the centre of democracy in the USA something as simple as admitting that we can be wrong, repentance seems to be in short supply. To be fair we are in the middle of a global pandemic and it is easy to see faults in a country other than your own. The ability to blame the other and deny fault over the storming of the Capitol Building is astonishing yet how often do we do the same thing ourselves? Do we listen to all sides of an argument before we do something or just the people in our echo chamber? Do we do what we want because we can or do we consider the impact on our neighbours?

In baptism the symbolism of washing away sin is profound. We know that something as simple as washing our hands whilst singing happy birthday twice or a couple of verses of your favourite hymn will reduce the spread of the virus. Can we take the simple act of washing and wonder what difference that would make in our lives if we could wash away all those little acts of unkindness and selfishness? How might we change if we could admit that we were wrong? That the decision we took yesterday was right in the context of the information we had then but the world has changed and now it is not the right thing to do? Just as washing is part of the armoury of our fight against the virus so repentance is part of the Christian way of life. It is a simple start. But in that simple start Jesus heard a voice from heaven say “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Stay safe.

Keep washing those hands.

Remember that we make mistakes because we are human but we can ask for forgiveness.

Mark 1:4-11 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.  Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals.  I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with[c] the Holy Spirit.”

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Photo credit Geetanjal Khanna at www.freelyphotos.com

 

Happy Christmas!

Services are on Christmas Eve at 9am and Christmas Day at 10am. The church will be open for private prayer on Sunday 27th December between 10-11am. There will be no service that day.