"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 …….

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The Sixth Sunday after Trinity

Collect
Merciful God,
you have prepared for those who love you
such good things as pass our understanding:
Pour into our hearts such love toward you
that we, loving you above all things,
may obtain your promises,
which exceed all that we can desire;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The First Reading - Genesis 29: 15-28
The Psalm - Psalm 105: 1-11, 45b or Psalm 128
The Second Reading - Romans 8: 26-39
The Gospel Reading - Matthew 13: 31-33, 44-52
Click here to view the readings via the oremus Bible Browser website

Post Communion Prayer
God of our pilgrimage,
you have led us to the living water.
Refresh and sustain us
as we go forward on our journey,
in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Canon Denise is on leave and her next "Consider this..." will be on 8th August.

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The Fifth Sunday after Trinity

Collect
Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church is governed and sanctified:
Hear our prayer which we offer for all your faithful people, that in their vocation and ministry
they may serve you in holiness and truth to the glory of your name; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

The First Reading - Genesis 28: 10-19a
The Psalm - Psalm 139: 1-11, 23-24
The Second Reading - Romans 8: 12-25
The Gospel Reading - Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43
Click here to view the readings via the oremus Bible Browser website

Post Communion Prayer
Holy and blessed God, as you give us the body and blood of your Son, guide us with your Holy Spirit, that we may honour you not only with our lips but also with our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

'Search me O God and know my heart' Psalm 139 v 23

One of the questions that was asked by a Bible Study workbook was ' How would you feel if every single thought you ever had was put up on a wall for everyone to see?'

Every single thought?
I know how I would feel- distinctly uncomfortable. So often some of my thoughts are downright uncharitable. Some of my darkest thoughts surprise even myself.
We are encouraged to become more 'emotionally intelligent' and 'self- aware' and while I think this has benefits , it does make one more aware of one's own shortcomings that one may have been blissfully unaware of before becoming so knowing!
And what are we supposed to do with such knowledge?
Do we really become different people or do we get better at disguising who we really are?
What makes us who we are? Nature or nurture? Genetics or environment?
Is it all down to genes? My youngest son was just 8 when his Dad died. He had no 'role model' to copy. He is now 29 and some of his mannerisms and the way he does things are a carbon copy of his Dad's!
I am amazed at times- certainly a 'chip of the old block!' Nature or nurture?

How many of us truly allow ourselves to be known?

But whether we give permission or not to be known the writer of Psalm 139 wants us to know that God DOES know us. It's as if everything single thing about us is written up on a wall -every thought, every word, every emotion. God knows all, sees all, and fully knowing us, loves us.

I think to fully appreciate the enormity, the extravagance, the joy, the security of that statement we have to run it over and over in our minds - 'God KNOWS me AND loves me!'

So many of our relationships - even our dearest and closest ones- are based on give and take- a sort of 'benevolent barter'. I do this for you and you do this for me- that is how we express love for each other, and let's admit it, if someone tells us they love us we expect it to be demonstrated oneway or another!

And so this statement about God's love is stupendous. He knows us through and through and there is absolutely no where we can hide from God's love.
The darkest situation in life cannot keep God out.

This is a very important truth to be heard by those who are caring for people ravaged by Alzheimer's disease. The sufferer seems to be locked in a dark world of their own where even their closet soul mate cannot get a way through to them. And the distress that this causes is immense. But God's presence is not locked out -God's love is not locked out. The ravages of dementia can never stop God knowing and loving.

Prayer. O Lord, we give you thanks for the joy and security that being loved brings. In this world there are many people who are unloved by other humans- but loved by you. Teach us to love the unlovable, to love that which you love. Thank you for the joy and security that being loved by you brings.

Canon Denise

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The Fourth Sunday after Trinity

Collect
O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy:
Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that with you as our ruler and guide,
we may so pass through things temporal that we finally lose not the things eternal:
Grant this, heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ’s sake, our Lord.

The First Reading - Genesis 25: 19-34 or Isaiah 55:10-13
The Psalm - Psalm 119: 105-112 or Psalm 65:[1-8],9-13
The Second Reading - Romans 8: 1-11
The Gospel Reading - Matthew 13: 1-9, 18-23
Click here to view the readings via the oremus Bible Browser website

Post Communion Prayer
Eternal God, comfort of the afflicted and healer of the broken, you have fed us at the table of life and hope.
Teach us the ways of gentleness and peace, that allthe world may acknowledge the kingdom of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

The disciples came to Jesus and asked him “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” Matt 13 v 10.

Were the disciples asking on the people’s behalf or their own?
When one doesn’t want to reveal true feelings about something it is not unknown to use the third person as a scapegoat and say, ‘they said!’, ‘he said!’ or ‘she said!’ The bluff is called when the other person says “Give me the name and I will go and speak to that person.”
Was it only the people who didn’t understand Jesus or were the disciples having bother as well?
From what we read in the gospels we can deduce that Jesus was a story teller.
It is a wonderful gift to be a storyteller and Jesus had the charisma of the great storytellers.
How do we know? When word got out Jesus was in the area then the large crowds of people came to see and hear him.

Endless books are written on the topic of public speaking, preaching, after dinner speaking, presentations...all of them giving tips and advice on how to hold an audience and they all unite when it comes to the use of storytelling . A story that conjures up pictures that people can relate to is one of the most successful ways of connecting with your listeners.
What Jesus said interested the listeners. No, they all didn’t agree with him, they all didn’t understand him, they all didn’t obey him, but they listened....they heard what Jesus had to say. They took away His words and Jesus left them to decide.

Jesus didn’t need to read a ‘How to do it’ manual. His main blocks of teaching came through stories

He took everyday situations and used them as teaching tools to show the people what
God’s kingdom is like,
what God’s rule is like,
what God himself is like,
and what Jesus himself had come to do.

He took the things of this world and in his words he showed the people how this earth is but a shadow of heaven. He used stories such as the shepherd out searching for the lost sheep,
the shepherd laying down his life for the sheep,
the woman tirelessly seeking the lost coin,
the fishermen hauling in nets that are so full they are at breaking point,
the man finding treasure in a field and selling all he has to own it,
a farmer sowing the seed.

When I was a child I learned the Cathecism! “What is that?” a young person would ask today! (I am revealing my age- I know!)
Q. What is a parable?
A. An earthly story with a heavenly meaning.

The story may sound simple but is the meaning always so easy to grasp?

Jesus used narratives that should have been easily understood in the farming culture he inhabited. Yet his audiences sometimes went away puzzled. Sometimes the connections between Jesus’ stories and their lives couldn’t be made. We, who live in an urban world should proceed with caution when seeking to interpret and understand these stories. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised when difficulty is encountered in comprehending the complexity of relationships contained in a story about a sower. Familiarity with a story does not equal wisdom.

Wendell Berry has written, “Living in our speech, though no longer in our consciousness , is an ancient system of analogies that clarifies a series of mutually defining and sustaining unities; of farmer and field, of husband and wife, of the world and God. The language of both our literature and of our everyday speech is full of allusions to this expansive metaphor of farming and marriage and worship.” (The Eternal Present pg. 175)

To help us understand the teachings of Jesus it is suggested we need to recover this system of analogies, whether we live in the country or the city. Can a city person ever truly appreciate the complexity of country life? How then can they expect to hear God speaking to them through these farming stories? And yet the apostle Paul says Scripture has the power to teach, rebuke, correct and train in righteousness so that the person of God is thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3v16). That includes city and country dweller!

Maybe we should go back to this story with fresh ears and eyes? Maybe we should try and read it as if for the very first time - hear it as if hearing it for the first time? Is there something more Jesus wants us to understand alongside what others have told us?

Prayer. Lord Jesus help us to hear afresh the familiar stories. Forgive us when we think we have nothing more to learn about your gracious and extravagant love. Give us a new sense of wonder, a renewed desire to learn and a heart ready and willing to serve. Amen.

Canon Denise

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The Third Sunday after Trinity
Collect
Almighty God, you have broken the tyranny of sin
and have sent the Spirit of your Son into our hearts whereby we call you Father:
Give us grace to dedicate our freedom to your service, that we and all creation may be brought to the glorious liberty of the children of God; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The First Reading - Genesis 24: 34-38, 42-49, 58-67 or Zechariah 9:9-12
The Psalm - Psalm 45: 10-17 or Psalm 145:8-14
The Second Reading - Romans 7: 15-25a
The Gospel Reading - Matthew 11: 16-19, 25-30
Click here to view the readings via the oremus Bible Browser website

Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.”-Matt 11v19

I always thought Christians were avid readers of the Bible – there I go again making assumptions. There is one particular lady I know and she is what some might call ‘ a true Christian!’ Now before we go any further surely one is a Christian or not – or is there a Christian hierarchy?

Another friend once said to me, ‘I am not religious, but I am a Christian .’

Way back in the OT when all the Jewish feasts and sacrifices were being observed by the religious ruling authorities and people, God says to them through the prophet Amos ‘I hate and despise your religious feasts. I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings I will not accept them.’ (Amos 5 18- end )

Was God saying He did not want to be worshipped?

No- God was saying that if alongside all the religious observances there was no justice, no mercy, no compassion, no forgiveness, no righteousness practiced in everyday life – then it was all a sham. God wanted to be no part of a religion like that. Forget it!

What does God want? – through the OT prophet Ezekiel God says more than anything it is our hearts. ‘I (God) will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you’(Ezekiel 36 v 26)

Let’s go back to my ‘non religious’ friend. On further discussion what she wanted to convey was that while she did all the expected ‘religious ‘ things like going to church, attending Bible study, prayer groups – they were merely outward observances. She had committed her heart to Jesus Christ. It was that act of heart commitment that made her a Christian – not the outward religious acts.

Ghandi is quoted as saying ,‘I like your Christ. I do not like Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.’

What had he seen that made him make such a devastating and sad statement about Christianity?

Had he seen lots of religious observances but no Christian practice?

I go back to my ‘true Christian’ acquaintance. She had committed her heart to Jesus as a young woman. And because of that her life demonstrated kindness, forgiveness, compassion, service and sacrifice. And yet she was a poor Bible reader! One day someone quoted the description of Jesus as a glutton and a drunkard- and she was visibly shocked. How could anyone describe Jesus like that? She demanded to see the verse for herself!

But if we read all of the chapter we see Jesus was saddened by the ‘sheer perversity of human nature.’(William Barclay). There is no getting away from the fact that people can be awkward. If one does not want to hear something, even though it is the truth, then, no matter what is said, no matter how it is said, it will be rejected. And there will be ‘real justification’ for taking that stance.

Jesus came and mixed with people from all walks of life- the poor, the rejected, the outcast, the powerless all received the same dignity, love and acceptance from Jesus as did the rich and powerful. However, quite often the powerful did not want to hear what Jesus had to say about mercy, justice, righteousness and freedom.

And so they could justify their rejection of him by saying,‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.”

But before I point any fingers have I done the very same thing myself? I may not have accused Jesus of being a glutton and a drunkard but when I realise God is prompting me to move in a certain direction, say a certain thing, act in a particular way, have I talked myself out of it , ‘justified’ it before God, and closed my ears to truth?

Am I one of the Christians that Ghandi was referring to?

Prayer. Lord Jesus, you call us to follow you with our hearts and our lives. By your Holy Spirit make us more and more like you, both in word and action. May those who call themselves Christians truly reach out in love towards one another so that the world may see Christ and be drawn to you as Lord and Saviour. Forgive us and restore when we fail you – Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer. Amen

Canon Denise

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