"Consider this ...." by Canon Denise


Canon Denise Acheson

Years ago I came across a poem which basically said – the more you learn makes you realise how little you know! Becoming a Christian is the first step of an eternal learning journey.

With the Holy Spirit’s guidance along the way one learns new things about oneself, about God and about others. We may outgrow some of the things we learned in the past as we grow closer to God through faith in Christ.

Faith is not static – and there are many things which we are called to think upon as we journey. 1 John 4 v1 says to test the spirits in order to recognise the Spirit of God.

So as we journey together let’s make time and space to consider this …….

Belfast Cathedral on Twitter Belfast Cathedral on Facebook



The Fifth Sunday before Advent

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:
Help us to hear them, to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them
that, through patience, and the comfort of your holy word,
we may embrace and for ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ.

The First Reading - Deuteronomy 34: 1-12
The Psalm - Psalm 90: 1-6, 13-17
The Second Reading - 1 Thessalonians 2: 1-8
The Gospel Reading - Matthew 22: 34-46
Click here to view the readings via the oremus Bible Browser website

Post Communion Prayer
God of all grace, your Son Jesus Christ fed the hungry with the bread of his life and the word of his kingdom. Renew your people with your heavenly grace, and in all our weakness sustain us by your true and living bread, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Love God…. and love your neighbour as yourself. Matt 22 v 37-39

We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. 1Thess 2 v 8

Jesus when asked what the greatest commandment answered with two, Love God…. and love your neighbour as yourself.

Love my neighbour as much as I love myself? How? Will anyone who heard the question put to Prince Charles at the time of his engagement to Diana “Are you in love? “ ever forget his answer, “whatever ‘in love’ means.”

Indeed, what does it mean? Clearly it means different things to different people.

Think of some well known sayings and songs – Love hurts, Love is blind , or the line from an old film, “Love means never having to say you are sorry.”

This week I watched the film “What we did on holiday” starring Billy Connelly and the line I remember from it is this – paraphrased- ‘Everyone is different, but where there is love these differences shouldn’t lead to division.’

Which brings us back to the question ‘What is love?’ Is it merely emotion, is it merely practical, is it both? Can it be spiritual ?

Paul goes in some way to answering the question in his letter to the Thessalonians.

Paul’s love for the Thessalonians was spiritual, emotional and practical!

Paul and his followers brought the gospel of God, - nurturing the spiritual side of his listeners.

Paul’s emotions towards the Thessalonians was comparable to the gentleness of a mother caring for her own child.

And the spiritual and emotional fused together in a practical outflowing as Paul shared the ups and downs of daily life! We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.

Paul uses the language of love interpreted by action and involvement.

It was love lived out in close proximity rather than at a distance.

And it is this call to be involved that sometimes makes us tread warily.

What will be asked of me if I truly love?

There is a prayer called ‘Lord, why did you tell me to love?’ written by Michael Quoist that leaves me challenged and uncomfortable every time I dare to read it – here is an extract:

Lord, why did you tell me to love all men, my brothers?
I have tried …..
Lord, I was so peaceful at home, I was so comfortably settled.
It was well furnished, and I felt so cosy.
I was alone, I was at peace.
Sheltered from the rain, the wind, the mud.
I would have stayed unsullied in my ivory tower.
But Lord- you have forced me to open my door.
As soon as I started to open the door, I saw them.
I did not know they were so near; in this house, in this street, in this office, my neighbour, my colleague, my friend…..I saw them, outstretched hands, burning eyes, longing hearts…
the first ones came in , there was room in my heart.
I welcomed them. I looked after them.
It was sensible.
But more came from all over town, from all parts of the country; of the world; numberless, inexhaustible. They come bending under heavy loads; loads of injustice, of resentment, of hate, of suffering.
Lord, they are too hungry, they are consuming me…. Lord, they are hurting me! They are consuming me!
Lord! My door is wide open! I can’t stand it anymore! It’s too much! It’s no kind of life.
What about MY job?
MY family?
MY peace?
MY liberty?
and ME?
Lord, I have lost everything, I don’t belong to MYSELF any more. There’s no room for ME at home.

Don’t worry, God says, you have gained all.
While men came in to you,
I, Your Father,
I your God,
Slipped in among them.’

Dare I love like that?

Dare you love like that?


Canon Denise


The Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity

Almighty and everlasting God: Increase in us your gift of faith
that, forsaking what lies behind, we may run the way of your commandments
and win the crown of everlasting joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The First Reading - Exodus 33: 12-23
The Psalm - Psalm 99
The Second Reading - 1 Thessalonians 1: 1-10
The Gospel Reading - Matthew 22: 15-22
Click here to view the readings via the oremus Bible Browser website

Post Communion Prayer
All praise and thanks, O Christ,
for this sacred banquet, in which by faith we receive you,
the memory of your passion is renewed, our lives are filled with grace,
and a pledge of future glory given, to feast at that table where you reign
with all your saints for ever.

You became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 1 Thess. 1 v 7

Words in the baptismal service – “By your own prayers and example, by your teaching and love, will you encourage them in the life and faith of the Christian community?” and the answer is, “With the help of God we will.”

When couples come for baptism preparation maybe they think I labour the point too much about example-their example to their children. If parents consistently send their children out to faith related events, but never ever go with them, what model is that child likely to imitate when he or she grows up ? Example exerts a powerful influence on those to whom it is displayed. Celebrities and politicians complain when they are reprimanded for their unsavoury behaviour. Why are they reprimanded? Because of the example they are setting especially to those who will be influenced by the behaviour of others. People in the limelight, those in power, become role models. With leadership comes responsibility, and the knowledge that one’s life will be open to scrutiny. It has always been that way and probably will always be that way!

And we have those same sentiments here in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians!

The founders in the church at Thessalonica saw Paul living out the gospel of Christ and they imitated him. In turn the church at Thessalonica became a model for all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The ripple effect of example!

But what are others seeing in this church that they want to be like it, they want to be part of it?

They see evidence of “work produced by faith, labour prompted by love, endurance inspired by the hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

People “looking in” have seen a complete turn around in the believers lives and community. They have seen a community turn away from idols to serve the true and living God. And that turning away and turning to revealed itself in action.

And it triggered off the challenging thought about the faith community in which are you and I find ourselves in and are part of. What example, what role model are we showing to those “looking in”?

What work is being produced by faith, what labour is prompted by love, what endurance is inspired because of the hope in Jesus Christ?

Prayer. Lord Jesus Christ- You call us turn away from the things which hinder us in our relationship with you. All the distractions and demands of this world that demand so much of our time and passion sometimes cause our priorities to become muddled. As we look to you, the author and perfecter of our faith, may we never take our eyes of the Lord Jesus. We give thanks for all those who, by their example, encourage us to follow you, in this life and in the life to come. Amen

Canon Denise


The Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity

Almighty God, you have made us for yourself,
and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you:
Teach us to offer ourselves to your service, that here we may have your peace,
and in the world to come may see you face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The First Reading - Exodus 32: 1-14
The Psalm - Psalm 106: 1-6, 19-23
The Second Reading - Philippians 4: 1-9
The Gospel Reading - Matthew 22: 1-14
Click here to view the readings via the oremus Bible Browser website

Post Communion Prayer
God our guide, you feed us with bread from heaven
as you fed your people Israel. May we who have been inwardly nourished
be ready to follow you all the days of our pilgrimage on earth,
until we come to your kingdom in heaven.
This we ask in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

For many are invited but few are chosen” Matthew 22 1-14

This is a disturbing story. It involves invitation, rejection and consequence.

The invitation to a wedding is usually received with anticipation. Yes, there might be a bit of good humoured banter about having to buy a present and what to wear- but in spite of that , if an invitation had not been issued there might be a feeling of “Why wasn’t I included?” especially when there was an understanding that an invitation would be extended!

Israel had been expecting the arrival of a Messiah for a long time. Hundreds of years earlier the prophets had foretold that The Anointed One – the King – would be coming to save them. They were still waiting and Jesus comes into their midst.

Why did Jesus have to speak in parables? Why didn’t he just say it straight out?

At times even the disciples couldn’t grasp what he was saying.

What happens if we don’t ‘get it.’? If we think we understand is it a case of “if the cap fits?”

But from what we read in the gospel the Pharisees seemed to be able to grasp what Jesus was saying, at least in this parable anyway, because after listening to him they laid plans to trap him – get him to say something so that they could nail him! And why? In the story they came out in a bad light! They recognised themselves as the ones refusing to come to the wedding party and what the consequences would be!

Celebration, feasting, rejoicing were all adjectives used by the OT writers describing the time the Messiah would come. Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet. And now that Jesus has come the party can begin.

But the Pharisees do not see Jesus as the Messiah. God invites them – but no, they will not. And so God flings the invitation open wide – and those who thought they would never get the chance to be included in God’s kingdom have been given an invitation to come right in. And in they come – good and bad.

But the last part of the parable is a bit harsh, or so it seems. Scholars feel that this is another parable in itself.

After getting in only to be be flung outside because the right wedding clothes are not being worn?

Is God that shallow? And then the warning comment, “Many are invited but few are chosen.”

How do we understand this in relation to the invitation?

When the King’s open invitation was issued many came – good and bad – no one was excluded. Jesus’ call is to everyone. The King expected to find the guests in wedding attire- different from their normal attire.

When Jesus calls us, and we come, as we are at that moment, don’t expect to stay the same. He can make a difference . And the changes that Jesus wants to bring into our lives should be there for all to see. God calls us as we are – from highways and byways, the good and the bad, but God doesn’t want us to remain as we are. God sees the person in Christ we can be. The Apostle Paul talks about the fruit of the Holy Spirit working in our lives – but we have to give the Holy Spirit- the Spirit of Jesus himself- full access to our hearts, minds and souls. And sometimes we resist. We want Christ, but on our own terms. We accept what Christ did for us, but what do we give Him in return? We want to live for Christ and we want to live for ourselves. Christ wants us to forgive others, have compassion towards others, love others, serve one another and sometimes we want to just look after ourselves. No wonder the Apostle Paul talks about the inward struggle that goes on as God seeks to shape and remake us and use us to build his kingdom.

Have you ever experienced that struggle? Living for God versus living for self?

Tom Wright puts it like this ‘God’s kingdom is a kingdom in which love and justice and truth and mercy and holiness reign unhindered. These are the clothes to put on for the wedding.. And if you refuse to put them on, you are saying you don’t want to stay at the party. That is the reality. Don’t deceive yourself, and others.’

Have you accepted God’s invitation to come into the kingdom?

For those of us who have, are we wearing the wedding attire?

Will we be spotted, asked to leave the King’s presence, because we refuse to change?

Prayer. Lord God, you invite us into your kingdom. Your gracious love compels you to extend the invitation to all. You promise through faith in your Son to fill us with your Holy Spirit, enabling us to take off our old garments of sin and guilt and put on the garments of forgiveness and peace. You promise to heal, and transform us, changing us more and more into the likeness of Christ. What a promise! May we give you access to our hearts and minds, and may we never leave your holy presence. Amen

Canon Denise


The Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

O Lord,
Hear the prayers of your people who call upon you;
and grant that they may both perceive and know
what things they ought to do,
and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfil them;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The First Reading - Exodus 20: 1-4, 7-9, 12-20
The Psalm - Psalm 19
The Second Reading - Philippians 3: 4b-14
The Gospel Reading - Matthew 21: 33-46
Click here to view the readings via the oremus Bible Browser website

Post Communion Prayer
God of mercy,
through our sharing in this holy sacrament
you make us one body in Christ.
Fashion us in his likeness here on earth,
that we may share his glorious company in heaven,
where he lives and reigns now and for ever.

Paul said- “I consider them rubbish!” Philippians 3 v 8

What do you ‘see’ in a person’s name?

Does J. Blogg, HRH: Ph.D: OBD: DD: CEO: BTB: impress you more than J. Blogg?

If so, why?

August has come and gone – a month in which students receive the results of their exams. Some are elated because “good” results means they can move on to other opportunities. Others are bereft – “bad” results closes the door on their hopes and dreams. “Education is lightly carried” – so the saying goes and education is the door of opportunity for many people.

I have been on three visits to the Kajiado, in Kenya. It is a poor area where life has been and can be difficult, particularly during the drought years. The people can provide for themselves until adverse conditions come, and then their crops die and cattle perish. It is a place where parents have to sacrifice their own needs in order to send their children to school, to get an education and to get out of the poverty trap. The children are given every encouragement to go as far as they can academically.

But what about the ones who don’t get very far, academically?

I love the story in Luke 14 about the power tussle among the guests. Jesus watched the guests vying for the best seat in the house and he warns that it is best left to the host to designate the guests the honoured seating. No matter how distinguished one feels there may be someone who will be more distinguished. And if one has already placed oneself in the best spot and is then asked to move and make way for someone more honourable, what humiliation awaits? Much, much better to wait and be asked by the host to move up to best spot! I wonder what the pecking order was that day?

In our society titles are important and are not a shameful thing. The title often confers recognition of service and sacrifice, as well as indicating a level of education. The recipient is justified in taking both pleasure and pride in the award.

In this letter Paul lists his credentials. And they are impressive! As a Jew he has a good pedigree- the very best and has a high, very high opinion of himself. He was perfectly entitled to take pleasure and pride in his background. He says that as far as keeping the Jewish religious law was concerned he was perfect! That is some claim! How many of us dare step out and say ‘Look at me- you can’t point a finger at me. You can try but you won’t succeed.’ Paul could command respect anywhere he went in the Jewish community. He was tops.

But Paul has a blinding insight into what is truly important. He is what he is- a highly educated, intelligent man with a distinguished background – those things cannot be denied. They have made him the man he is now and apologising for them won’t change anything. But Paul doesn’t apologise for his privileged background, his education, the credentials that he has.

Instead, what Paul realises is that all these things cannot compensate for a life lived without Christ-they mean nothing. Paul said- “I consider them rubbish!” Strong sentiments indeed.

Before Paul knew Christ he was defined by his earthly achievements but now, he is defined by his relationship with Christ. Before this his driving passion may have been to be a better Jew, to keep on keeping the religious law. Now his driving passion is to know more and more about Christ.

Without Christ his life has no meaning, no purpose. Paul says that because of Jesus he has lost the privileged standing in which he was held, but if he has to choose between losing Christ or losing privileges , there is no contest. Christ wins every time! If the rest of the stuff that he had achieved gets in the way of that then it has to go out of his life, just like rubbish!

What has been the driving force in my life to this point?

What has been the driving force in your life to this point?

How do I ‘see’ myself and others?

How do you ‘see’ yourself and others?

Have I come to the point, like Paul, where I can say that to know Christ is more important than anything else going on in my life?

Have you?

If I haven’t what is holding me back?

What is holding you back?

We cannot be Paul - we can only ever be ourselves. So what might it look like for you or for me to say,“I consider them rubbish!”?

What things could we argue are more important to us than knowing Christ?

Prayer. Lord, when we stand in your presence all our self-sufficiency, our self -interest, our self- satisfaction are exposed as the self- delusions they are. Without you we have nothing. Without you we are lost. The selfish way we make use of people, the way we look down on people, our vanity and self-righteousness are shown up in all their poverty and emptiness. Father, we ask your forgiveness. By the power of your Holy Spirit lift us up and enable us to celebrate your love. In Jesus name we pray. Amen

Canon Denise


Previous Months

September 2014

August 2014

July 2014

June 2014

May 2014

April 2014

March 2014