"Consider this ...."

It’s always fascinating to watch small children when they’re out for a walk. They take note of everything with a keen interest, examining their world in minute detail. They are captivated by things that grown up’s hurry past unseeing- like the veins of a leaf, petals from a flower, a snail’s shell. They may not make speedy progress but, for them, the journey is as important as the destination; the getting to as satisfying as the getting there.

The Christian life is often characterised as a journey and, as such, allows for similar opportunities for growth, maturing and lifelong learning, if only we keep our eyes, ears and minds open. Faith is not static and, although we are encouraged to press on towards the goal of salvation, we are also encouraged to be still and to grow in our awareness of God, other people, and ourselves.

These offerings are written to provide a moment for you to draw aside, reflect, and pray. They are based on the weekly Collect, Scripture readings and Post-Communion Prayer of the Church of Ireland. Wherever you may be on your own journey of faith, you are welcome to join us and to consider this…

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Trinity Sunday

Collect
Almighty and everlasting God,
you have given us your servants grace,
by the confession of a true faith,
to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity
and in the power of the divine majesty to worship the Unity:
Keep us steadfast in this faith,
that we may evermore be defended from all adversities;
for you live and reign, one God, for ever and ever.

The First Reading - Proverbs 8: 1-4, 22-31
The Psalm - Psalms 8
The Second Reading - Romans 5: 1-5
The Gospel Reading - John 16: 12-15
Click here to view the readings via the oremus Bible Browser website.

Post Communion Prayer
Almighty God,
may we who have received this holy communion,
worship you with lips and lives
proclaiming your majesty
and finally see you in your eternal glory:
Holy and Eternal Trinity,
one God, now and for ever.Amen

I wonder how many of us, since learning of the prospects of a new job, or perhaps promotion, resulting in increased salary and/or benefits, have sat down and made plans as a result - perhaps to consider the difference an increased salary might make, perhaps being able to afford to buy that dream home, or perhaps change the car or perhaps afford a long awaited holiday.

Paul writing to the Church at Rome had just outlined in great detail in chapter 4 of Romans, the great fact that justification, that is being made right with God, comes by faith and faith alone. Now in our reading for Trinity Sunday, (Romans 5:1-5) . He adds, ‘Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ We cannot be justified, (made right with God, if you like), by performing good works, or by being a member of a particular denomination, or by having godly parents, or anything else we might think of. (Martin Luther argued we can only be justified before God by faith alone (sola fide), bygrace alone (sola gratia), by Christ alone(sola Christus), for the glory of God alone).

The consequences of a pay rise or an increased salary, may make a significant difference in a home, and there is nothing wrong with that. But Paul is outlining very clearly in Romans 5 V1, the consequences for every child of God justified by faith. There is, first and foremost, peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. And when a person has come to faith through trusting Jesus as Saviour, there will be a significant difference, not only in a home, but in all aspects of that persons life! But the benefits don’t just stop there! Because of what Jesus did for us we have access by grace to God - we have entry to the presence of the King of Kings! We are introduced into the presence of royalty! That is the sense of what Paul is saying. And it is all through grace. Grace is lavished upon every child of God. The late Derek Bingham, wrote this about this amazing grace, ‘grace to save us; grace to sustain us; grace to bear persecution(and the church in Rome when Paul was writing to it knew much about persecution), grace to accept misunderstanding, grace to resist temptation, grace to wait when God is silent, grace to live and grace to die.’

How true.

Little wonder John Newton, that terrible blasphemer and slave trader could write, after he received this grace;

Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now I'm found,
Was blind, but now, I see.

T'was Grace that taught,
my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear,
the hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come.
Tis Grace has brought me safe thus far,
and Grace will lead us home.

Revd Campbell Dixon MBE

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The Day of Pentecost (Whit Sunday)

Collect
Almighty God, who on the day of Pentecost sent your Holy Spirit to the apostles with the wind from heaven and in tongues of flame, filling them with joy and boldness to preach the gospel: By the power of the same Spirit strengthen us to witness to your truth and to draw everyone to the fire of your love; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Readings
The First Reading- Acts 2: 1-21
The Psalm- Psalm 104: 26-36, 37b
The Second Reading- Romans 8: 14-17
The Gospel Reading- John 14: 8-17
Click here to view the readings via the oremus Bible Browser website.

Now and then I’ll be told that I’m the double of my dad, or that my children look like me. When I was growing up I felt that my dad didn’t appreciate how lucky he was to resemble such a handsome son! But now, seeing things from the father’s perspective, I can fully understand the horror of thinking that, even though I pretend otherwise out in public, people realise that the 2 urchins are actually mine!

Looking like your parents is one thing- the question is do we resemble them in other ways, in terms of character, priorities, concerns and values? There may be some of their values we esteem to adopt; there may be others that we decide to strive not to emulate. As we grow we make those choices, and add or delete them accordingly from our own emerging personality.

In the Gospel reading, Philip asks Jesus to show him the Father. Jesus’ reply challenges Philip to recognise the family resemblance between Son and Father, and to perceive that, in seeing Jesus in action, he was seeing the Father. To encounter Jesus is to encounter God; Jesus’ character and values reveal God’s character and values.

At Pentecost the Church celebrates the sending of the Spirit by the Father to continue Jesus’ work of spreading the Gospel of the Kingdom. With the Spirit’s guidance and prompting we get to share that family resemblance too, so that when people see us they see Jesus and, in the words of the collect, by that encounter are drawn to the fire of God’s love.

Post Communion Prayer
Faithful God,
who fulfilled the promises of Easter
by sending us your Holy Spirit
and opening to every race and nation the way of life eternal:
Open our lips by your Spirit,
that every tongue may tell of your glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Revd Mark Niblock

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The Seventh Sunday of Easter: Sunday after Ascension Day

Collect:
O God the King of Glory,
you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ
with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven:
Mercifully give us faith to know
that, as he promised,
he abides with us on earth to the end of time;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Readings:
First Reading: Acts 16:16-34
Psalm: 97
Second Reading: Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21
Gospel: John 17:20-26
Click here to view the readings via the oremus Bible Browser website.

Post Communion Prayer:
Eternal Giver of love and power,
your Son Jesus Christ has sent us into all the world
to preach the gospel of his kingdom.
Confirm us in this mission,
and help us to live the good news we proclaim;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Last Thursday was Ascension Day. The picture of Jesus going up into the sky is one we may remember from our childhood. I can remember looking up into the sky hoping to see him. Of course that was a very long time ago before anyone had travelled into space. We now know that the words of the hymn "There is a Friend for little children above the bright blue sky.“ are not literally true. But that does not make the ascension irrelevant.

The ascension of Jesus is as important today as it ever was. It marked the end of the appearances of Jesus after the resurrection and heralded a new time which would begin 10 days later at Pentecost with the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples.

As Jesus left them the disciples he gave them an instruction - they were to return to Jerusalem and stay there until they received the gift of the Holy Spirit. They were not told how long the wait would be - simply that they had to wait. So, in obedience to Jesus they returned to the city and joined with others in prayer. It seems that the majority of those 10 days were spent praying. It was during this time that Matthais became a disciple in place of Judas.

The practice of spending nine days in prayer is one that has survived and novenas are often held, sometimes at this time.

We can mark this time leading up to the Feast of Pentecost by trying to spend a little more time in prayer ourselves. We can reflect on the story of that first Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13) and on the way that it affected the whole of that small group of Christians. (I especially like the description in Acts 2:42 “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”)

You might like to reflect on the words of this hymn, written by James Montgomery who was born in 1711. The hymn may be old but the sentiments it expresses are as relevant today as they ever were.

Prayer is the soul's sincere desire,
uttered or unexpressed;
the motion of a hidden fire
that trembles in the breast.

Prayer is the simplest form of speech
that infant lips can try,
prayer the sublimest strains that reach
the Majesty on high.

Prayer is the Christian's vital breath,
the Christian's native air,
his watchword at the gates of death:
he enters heaven with prayer.

Nor prayer is made on earth alone:
the Holy Spirit pleads,
and Jesus on the eternal throne
for sinners intercedes.

O Thou by whom we come to God,
the Life, the Truth, the Way,
the path of prayer thyself hast trod:
Lord, teach us how to pray!

Revd Janice Elsdon

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