"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 Fourth Sunday of Advent
God our redeemer,
who prepared the blessed Virgin Mary
to be the mother of your Son:
Grant that, as she looked for his coming as our saviour,
so we may be ready to greet him
when he comes again as our judge;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The First Reading - 2 Samuel 7: 1-11, 16
The Psalm - Psalm 89: 1-4, 19-26
The Second Reading - Romans 16: 25-27
The Gospel Reading - Luke 1: 26-38
Click here to view the readings via the oremus Bible Browser website

Post Communion Prayer
Heavenly Father,
you have given us a pledge of eternal redemption.
Grant that we may always eagerly celebrate
the saving mystery of the incarnation of your Son.
We ask this through him whose coming is certain,
whose day draws near,
your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

"For nothing is impossible with God." Luke 2 v 38

These were the words of the angel to Mary who was 'troubled' as she listened to the message which started with "Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you!"

Was Mary's guard up right away? Something like our reaction when we are stopped on the street by a very friendly person with a clipboard. Immediately the thought is, "What do they want me to sign up for?" Or if handed a freebie on the street the dilemma is, "Should I take it or not - there has to be a catch?" Maybe I have become too cynical??

But Mary is reassured that there is no need to be afraid- no need, as it were, to have her guard up. Mary has found favour with God.

The child she will bear will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. He will be given the throne of his ancestor King David and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever.

It is twenty nine years since I had my last child- and things have changed quite a bit since then- but even in my time the effects of lifestyle and stress on the growing foetus was well documented. And there were theories around that if you wanted your child to be a musician ( or whatever) when he or she grew up , then the mother should expose herself to music ( or whatever) in the hope that it could be 'absorbed' by the baby. In other words, it might be possible to determine the destiny of the child via the womb.

A very general statement is that most mothers want the best for their child. Many parents dream good dreams for their unborn child - hence the sadness and shock of losing a baby even before it was due to be born.

Mary was a very young woman who has been given the unexpected news that she will have a child and all that will come to pass will be the work of Holy Spirit. And she will face it "for nothing is impossible with God." She probably hasn't had time to absorb the impact of all this, let alone start to dream dreams for her unborn. But if she could have- is this what she would have dreamed for her child. I don't believe so, but, "nothing is impossible with God."
"For nothing is impossible with God." Mary had to learn to live with the reality of these words as she watched her son grow to manhood and then die the death of a criminal.
How many times had she to recall these words of promise as she watched Jesus fufill his mission? Did she struggle to make sense of them? Did she struggle to hold on to God's promises?
As she watched him die what sense did she make of these promises and the statement, "for nothing is impossible with God." Was it her reliance on God that made it possible for her to continue to be faithful?

There will be times when we too, like Mary, may be greatly troubled by what we hear and see - in our own lives and in the world around us.

We may struggle when we pray for peace and we see no peace.
We may struggle when we pray for healing and we see sickness.
We may struggle when we pray for hope and we see despair.

But, like Mary, let us watch and wait. And as we pray, and watch and wait, let us recall the promises of God and continue to be reassured in our fears "for nothing is impossible with God."

Prayer. Father we praise you that when we are weak, we can rely on your strength.
When we are poor in spirit, you fill us with joy. When we are empty, you flood our lives with peace. We praise you for your all sufficient grace. We know that no matter what we face or what we are trying to cope with or what battles we are fighting, your love is sufficient for all our needs. "For nothing is impossible with God." May we bring honour to your name, for Christ's sake. Amen

Canon Denise

---------------------------------------------------------

The Third Sunday of Advent
O Lord Jesus Christ,
who at your first coming sent your messenger
to prepare your way before you:
Grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries
may likewise so prepare and make ready your way
by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,
that at your second coming to judge the world
we may be found an acceptable people in your sight;
for you are alive and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end.

The First Reading - Isaiah 61: 1-4, 8-11
The Psalm - Psalm 126 or Magnificat
The Second Reading - 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-24
The Gospel Reading - John 1: 6-8, 19-28
Click here to view the readings via the oremus Bible Browser website

Post Communion Prayer
Father,
we give you thanks for these heavenly gifts.
Kindle us with the fire of your Spirit
that when Christ comes again
we may shine as lights before his face;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it- 1 Thessalonians 5 v 16-24.

On Thursday morning I was returning from Bristol on the 7am flight. The captain said "We will be flying into 180 m.p.h headwinds and it is likely to be bumpy. Keep your seat belts on." Oh dear!
Flying and high winds are two things I do not like in combination. Needless to say I listened intently to the safety talk, made absolutely sure where the exits were, wished I had prebooked a seat right beside the exit, fastened my seat belt, took a few deep , or rather shallow, frightened breaths, and sat on the edge of my seat for the duration of the flight. I really didn't worry too much about the brace position because the seats are so close to one another there really isn't room to lean forward to 'Brace, Brace!!( I hope I never have to test my theory!)

The flight turned out to be one of the smoothest I have been on! The Captain got me safely back down. Hurrah!! None the less when I landed I gabbled a prayer of gratitude for the skills of the pilot and crew, for all involved in maintaining and building planes, for air traffic controllers etc., etc., - in fact I just gave thanks I was back on the terra firma. The relief was palpable.

But was there any need for the captain to have given all that info? Could the captain not simply have started flying and leave the passengers blissfully unaware of the potential danger? If trouble arose - deal with it there and then?
He/she could have, but chose to prepare the passenger for what might happen. The message definitely made me more aware of procedures that would need to be followed in the event of an emergency. My emotional equilibrium was a bit upset - but is that a small price to pay for being prepared to try to save one's own life, if necessary?

The beginning of chapter 5 of Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians is remarkably like the captain's warning. Paul reminds his readers what lies ahead. The day of the Lord will come unexpectedly, destruction will come suddenly, do not be surprised when it happens because you have been warned. Keep alert, watch and be ready! And the way to be ready? Be self controlled, have faith and love in Christ, and the hope of salvation. This is the promise of God. He can be trusted. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it!

So, while there is every need to be prepared and watchful, Paul tells his readers they don't have to 'sit on the edge of their seat' until Christ's return.
Rather, he says, "Be joyful always: pray continually: give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

Believers are not to go around frazzled, frightened, feeling terror stricken about the present and the future. God wants good things for his children. Christ came to bring healing and wholeness, forgiveness and new hope, peace and joy.
Yes, even in the midst of all that is going on in our lives and in the world "this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
Be joyful? Yes!
Always? Yes!

On Sunday at the All Age Service I read out part of a prayer that was used by someone at a Christmas Eve service - someone who really felt life was such that to celebrate was the last thing he wanted to do.
He asks,
How does one hear the good news of Jesus coming when all one ever hears is bad news? How does one have joy when out of work, or ill, or dying?
How can we sing about peace on earth when the horror of war is still all around us?
But then - he remembers the promise.
God's gift to us is God himself. God put himself in our hands -as a baby- to suckle and nurture or to receive and reject. God in a cradle and God on a cross. In our bad news, in our sadness, in our cry for peace - Emmanuel - Jesus - God is with us.

With the belt of Jesus firmly buckled in our hearts and around us we can face life prepared. We will land safely. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. Hurrah!

Prayer. Heavenly Father, we praise you for all you have shown us in Jesus. As we prepare for Christmas help us to never forget the coming of Jesus. We praise you for the joy of his living presence in our lives and we thank you that he came into this world, just as we did, as a helpless baby. His coming has left us in no doubt about your love and mercy. He has opened the way to real life now and for all eternity. His coming was more than a story-it is a message of the birth of the Saviour of the world. . Forgive us if, as we welcome the baby in the manger we forget he was the man on the cross. Amen.

Canon Denise

--------------------------------------------------------

The Second Sunday in Advent
Father in heaven,
who sent your Son to redeem the world
and will send him again to be our judge:
Give us grace so to imitate him
in the humility and purity of his first coming
that when he comes again,
we may be ready to greet him with joyful love and firm faith;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The First Reading - Isaiah 40: 1-11
The Psalm - Psalm 85: 1-2, 8-13
The Second Reading - 2 Peter 3: 8-15a
The Gospel Reading - Mark 1: 1-8
Click here to view the readings via the oremus Bible Browser website

Post Communion Prayer
Lord,
here you have nourished us with the food of life.
Through our sharing in this holy sacrament
teach us to judge wisely earthly things
and to yearn for things heavenly.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God Isaiah 40 v 1.

At this time of year these words bring to my mind immediately the chorus and the words of the carol 'God rest you merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay' - O tidings of comfort and joy!' This carol was based upon Luke 2:8-20 - but I wonder were those words of Isaiah somewhere in the mind of the writer as well?

Jerusalem had suffered under the Assyrian Siege and the prediction of the exile to Babylon comes immediately before in Isaiah Chapter 39. Can any words bring comfort in such a situation?
But yet the word of God, spoken through the prophet Isaiah does bring comfort - even in this black and distressing period of Israel's history.

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, tell her that Israel is to be punished for her sins, yet God will show great compassion to his people and will restore them to their land. This could not have been easy for Isaiah- and he would not have been human if at times he hadn't felt disappointed and that his work was in vain. But amidst the discouraging times and bitter experiences he must have been cheered by the thought of the remnant of Israel and even more at the prospect of the work of the servant of the Lord that would come. Isaiah looked ahead to the release of the exiles from Babylon, and still further ahead to a greater day of redemption when the servant would die vicariously for his people's sins.
And John the Baptist bursts on to the scene declaring that now the time had come to get ready to receive the one who had been foretold by the prophets of old- "Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him."

The more I read about the prophets, the more I begin to think would I have listened to them and taken them seriously if I had been a contemporary?
Ezekiel has to be one of the most fascinating prophets in the Old Testament. He sees amazing visions, he allows himself to be tied up with ropes in his own house and his movements restricted. He lies on his left side for 390 days and on finishing that stint he lies down on his right side for 40 days . He has to turn his face towards the siege of Jerusalem and must be tied up with ropes so that he could not turn and his diet was restricted during these days. He shaved off his hair and beard, then weighed and divided up the hair . A third of it he burnt, a third of it he struck with a sword all around the city and a third he scattered to the wind. But he hid a few strands in the folds of garment and after a while burned them.
If you had seen him doing these things what would you have thought?
And yet, he was used by God to bring his message which we read today!

John the Baptist too was an extraordinary figure - even in his day. What he wore, what he ate and what he said!
He too brought words of God's comfort. How many listened in his day?
John's message was a wakeup call to the people of Israel!
They had become complacent, they were going in the wrong direction, they were to turn back, turn around and go in the right direction and turn away from the dead end which their religion was leading them to. John tells them that the one who is coming after Him will be the one to reveal to them the glory of God and that God will come and live among them, by His spirit.
Down through the centuries the cry of John the Baptist has rung out-sometimes clearly, sometimes not.
Repent, do a u-turn!( in Australia they call it a U'ee! ). Turn around and turn away from sin and rebellion against God and turn to the One who brings forgiveness of sin, who brings healing, the One who brings new life.

Have we become complacent? What form must John the Baptist come in our day to catch our attention?
What kind of a jolt do we need to take seriously the message of Christ's return?

Prayer. Almighty God, our heavenly Father, we thank you for men and women who have been like John the Baptist for us, for those who have prepared the way for others to hear you speak, to know you are real and to make us ready to welcome you into their lives; for those who have been ready to stand and face derision and rejection, suffer loss, rather than deny the truth of Christ. We thank you for those today in our own society whose words and actions demonstrate the reality of your presence.
May we too, be channels of your life refreshing, life transforming grace for others. Amen

Canon Denise

-------------------------------------------------------

Previous Months

November 2014

October 2014

September 2014

August 2014

July 2014

June 2014

May 2014

April 2014

March 2014