"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 Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

Collect
Almighty God,
who called your Church to bear witness
that you were in Christ reconciling the world to yourself:
Help us to proclaim the good news of your love,
that all who hear it may be drawn to you;
through him who was lifted up on the cross,
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The First Reading - Song of Solomon 2: 8-13 or Deuteronomy 4:1-2,6-9
The Psalm - Psalm 45: 1-2, 6-9 or Psalm 45:1-7 or Psalm 15
The Second Reading - James 1: 17-27
The Gospel Reading - Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Click here to view the readings via the oremus Bible Browser website

Post Communion Prayer
God our creator,
you feed your children with the true manna,
the living bread from heaven.
Let this holy food sustain us through our earthly pilgrimage
until we come to that place
where hunger and thirst are no more;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. - James 3 v 19

James was a wise man! When one reads some of the Apostle Paul's writings one can get a bit tangled up trying to follow his reasoning. Paul's thoughts come tumbling out one of top of the other- leaving the reader breathless trying to keep up with him. But James' writings are so practical and easy to follow there is no misunderstanding what he is saying! James gives us no quarter. He tells it like it is!

Gossip must be a universal pastime. The male of the species credit females with the most propensity towards this activity! Do not believe it! The pitch and volume may be different - but the "delicious joy" experienced as salacious gossip is exchanged is felt with the same intensity by either of the species!

Am I exaggerating?
Am I biased?

Before one asks the question "How are you?" of a fellow human being be sure in your heart it is a genuine question! How many of us- after having asked the question - have regretted it? The one who was asked is giving an answer - a detailed answer- an honest answer- a long answer! ( Yawn!) The one who enquired is either listening intently or jigging about mentally thinking "How can I get out of this?" Then suddenly interrupts the flow of talk with " Oh sorry - have to go! I am late for ........." and escape! The conversation ends.

To my shame I have done it, and, for my punishment it has been done to me!

When we ask a question like that can we slow down and really listen, and not jump in with an opinion before the speaker has finished?

We are reminded in Scripture that self- control is a fruit of Spirit, a by-product of a life lived in conjunction with God. With self awareness and the Holy Spirit's help can we truly listen? Can we wait and be quick enough to hear also the unspoken words lying behind the spoken?

Last week we read about using the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, as a defensive weapon in its role as part of the Christian armour.

It has been many, many years since soldiers going to war stopped using swords - but when they did, those swords maimed and damaged those they came in contact with. In Tenerife, a number of years ago, my husband came upon an incident where a man, armed with a sword, rushed into a shop and beheaded a woman. It was a shocking sight - and horrified tourists were sickened and frightened by the incident.

The sword can kill. But certain words, said with a particular emphasis, can wound and maim just as devastatingly as a sword. How many people's characters have been assassinated by someone who was quick to speak, pass on information they had heard without ever stopping to verify whether it was true or not? Even the tone of the voice can convey innuendo, intrigue- "It couldn't be true- could it?"

Why do we do it?

We are reminded in Scripture that self- control is a fruit of Spirit, a by-product of a life lived in conjunction with God. With self awareness and the Holy Spirit's help can we surrender our careless and cruel words to God? Help us to control our tongue?

Anger can be a sign of passion, a sign that one cares. There is such thing as righteous anger - like the anger Jesus' displayed while clearing the temple! There is a place in this world for such anger against tyranny and sin.

But how much of our anger is righteous and unselfish?

How much of our anger is directed towards others because we ourselves have felt offended, slighted or jealous. We may be angry because others opinion of us is not as high as our own opinion of ourselves! And when we are angry this is the time we really need to control our tongues. So many times words said in anger destroy trust and love, and once spoken can never be unspoken. Anger casts aside discretion and wisdom and produces resistance and resentment from those who are experiencing the angry outburst.

There are times when situations do make one angry, especially situations which reveal and expose one's helplessness to change the circumstances.

But does anger achieve anything? Does one's soul benefit from frustrated anger?

We are reminded in Scripture that self- control is a fruit of Spirit, a by-product of a life lived in conjunction with God.

With self awareness and the Holy Spirit's help can we surrender our anger to God and ask for the Holy Spirit to help us work through the anger? To give us help to control our anger?

Prayer. Lord, help each one of us this week to be more ready to listen than to speak and when we dare to speak may our words build up, not tear down. Grant to each of us the gift of self control , that we may grow in grace and wisdom and be a blessing to our family and friends. Amen.

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The Twelfth Sunday after Trinity

Collect
Almighty and everlasting God,
you are always more ready to hear than we to pray
and to give more than either we desire, or deserve:
Pour down upon us the abundance of your mercy,
forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid,
and giving us those good things
which we are not worthy to ask
save through the merits and mediation
of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.

The First Reading - 1 Kings 8: 1,6,10-11,22-30,41-43 or Joshua 24: 1-2a, 14-18
The Psalm - Psalm 84 or Psalm 34: 15-22
The Second Reading - Ephesians 6: 10-20
The Gospel Reading - John 6: 56-69
Click here to view the readings via the oremus Bible Browser website

Post Communion Prayer
God of compassion,
in this eucharist we know again your forgiveness
and the healing power of your love.
Grant that we who are made whole in Christ
may bring that forgiveness and healing to this broken world,
in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

"I am an ambassador in chains." Ephesians 10 v 20
Several years ago while on retreat I came across a chain sculpture in the grounds of the centre. It was made up of metal links - the type that chains are made from and clearly represented two human figures. Male and female- I don't know. It had started to rust in places. But as I studied it I began to think about the chains that are wrapped round our hearts and souls. Some of them we may be aware of, but no one else can see them. Sometimes we dare not let anyone know they are there. I wrote down some thoughts that occurred to me at that time , and it was this passage from Ephesians that prompted me to search for this piece of writing and re read it. I have never seen the sculpture again - but whenever I see chains I think of my "chain people".

I looked at the man standing there,
arm raised in salute.
In salute of what?
Anger,
despair,
frustration?
His face -
is it
raised in triumph?
"I have conquered!"

Why do I say 'he'?
There are no clues to gender that I can see.
Except for the figure lying close by,
on her back, legs apart,
one arm half raised,
the other arm in a defensive position.
Is she dead?
Or merely lying there-
submissive,
defeated?

Why do I say "she"?
There are no clues to gender that I can see.

I am no longer sure is he a she or she a he!

Whether our "chain people" are he or she,
triumphant or submissive,
both are in chains.

What are the chains that strive for power?
What are the chains that bring defeat?

Why am I thinking about this?
They are only figures- not real people!!

But Lord, I am a real person
with chains that no one sees,
chains that bind me .
Do my chains make me
strive to dominate,
overcome,
triumph over others?

What are the chains that tie me,
that cause me to admit defeat,
submit and lie down,
too weary to fight?

These "chain people" have rusted
through exposure to the elements.
Can they be cleaned up?
De rusted?

The chains that hold me-
are they so long there
that by now they are rusting ,
corroding my very soul?
Will these chains bind me forever?
Must they bind me forever?

Lord, you can break these chains!
Will you?
Or must I carry them with me
part of who I am?

You came to bring freedom!

On the night before you died
you came to table with your friends.
You celebrated the freedom of your people.

At the Eucharist we celebrate
with the bread and the cup!
We celebrate the cross
on which you died to set us free!
Your dying and rising has set us free from sin and death.

Lord,
in spite of the chains
that hold me prisoner,
breathe your Spirit into my soul
so that I will hold up my hands in celebration,
joy,
praise
and freedom.

May my soul be free!
Amen

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The Eleventh Sunday after Trinity

Collect
O God,
you declare your almighty power
most chiefly in showing mercy and pity:
Mercifully grant to us such a measure of your grace,
that we, running the way of your commandments,
may receive your gracious promises,
and be made partakers of your heavenly treasure;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

The First Reading - 1 Kings 2: 10-12, 3: 3-14 or Proverbs 9: 1-6
The Psalm - Psalm 111 or Psalm 34: 1-8
The Second Reading - Ephesians 5: 15-20
The Gospel Reading - John 6: 51-58
Click here to view the readings via the oremus Bible Browser website

Post Communion Prayer
Lord of all mercy,
we your faithful people have celebrated
the memorial of that single sacrifice
which takes away our sins and brings pardon and peace.
By our communion
keep us firm on the foundation of the gospel
and preserve us from all sin;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

"Making the most of the time"- Ephesians 5: 16

For the above quotation The New International version text reads "making the most of every opportunity" , King James text "Redeeming the time," New American Standard Bible " Making the most of your time", The New Century Version "Use every chance you have for doing good",
The Contemporary English version "make every minute count", The New Living Translation "Make the most of every opportunity", and TheMessage "make the most of every chance you get".

Do they all mean the same thing or are there subtle differences? Is "redeeming time" the same as "using every chance you have for doing good"?

When we think of redeeming something it can mean trying to repossess or buy back - and we can never do that with time.
Or, when we hear about someone "redeeming" themselves we expect their current behaviour to compensate for poor performance or behaviour in the past. Learning from past mistakes very often helps people to make better choices - make the most of every future opportunity.

Many years ago I came across "A Thought for the Day" - fourteen of them in fact!
I enlarged the picture and laminated it and stuck it on to a prominent space on the wall. I would study it very frequently - but over the years I have not looked at it very much. BUT- some of those thoughts have stayed with me. Number 8 is "Before you praise a busy man (all the thoughts referred to men!!!) find out what he is busy about!" I used to know such a woman!!! Number 14 "Never let mistakes discourage you. There is precious instruction to be got by finding it was wrong."
Is that how we redeem time? Knowing what went wrong, learning from it and aspiring not to make the same mistake in the future? We can't get back the time during which we went wrong- but need we keep repeating the same old mistakes?

How do we make the most of the time, all the time? Have we got to constantly remind ourselves that we don't live for ever. There is a Chinese proverb that says if a person's life started at - let's say 80- and worked backwards people would live their lives differently. Who knows how that might work out ? Would one throw all caution to the wind at the start of life and then settle down as the counter reaches zero? Or concentrate on making the most of the time knowing that it has a definite end point?

The book of Ecclesiastes could get you down on a gloomy day. So often the phrase "meaningless" comes up as the writer searches for the meaning of life. If our awareness of the certainty of death overshadows and dominates our thinking then inevitability a sense of "Well, what's the point of doing anything, " can set in and the word "meaningless" becomes a dominant word in our vocabulary.

There has to a right balance between awareness of the brevity of life- Psalm 39 v 4 - "Show me O Lord's my life's end, and the number of my days, let me know how fleeting is my life- each person's life is but a breath" and the appreciation of the gift life itself - Jesus said in John 10v10 "I am come that they might have life, and have it to the full."

As I move into the Autumn of my life I am becoming more and more aware of the brevity of life. Sometimes I cannot believe I have been on this earth so long- there has to be a mistake somewhere!
There is no mistake - I cannot redeem time in the sense of "getting it back" but I want to make every minute count. I pray that my appreciation for life and people will not diminish but, with God's help, will increase as the countdown progresses.

Prayer.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for your gift of life. Help us daily to appreciate life with all its ups and downs. Thank you for the different people you have brought into our lives and for the laughter and love that is shared, the challenges and difficulties that are faced together. Help us to appreciate today all that we have rather than waiting for a calamity to bring home to us the fragility and brevity of life.
Help us to love one another, to work toward all that is good and make us ready to meet our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

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The Tenth Sunday after Trinity

Collect
Let your merciful ears, O Lord,
be open to the prayers of your humble servants;
and that they may obtain their petitions,
make them to ask such things as shall. Amen.

Readings
2 Samuel 18: 5-9, 15, 31-33
Psalm 130
Ephesians 4: 25- 5:2
John 6: 35, 41-51
Click here to view the readings via the oremus Bible Browser website

Post Communion Prayer
O God,
as we are strengthened by these holy mysteries,
so may our lives be a continual offering,
holy and acceptable in your sight;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life." - John 6: 35

I love bread! Any kind will do but if pushed to choose white crusty freshly baked will always get my No 1 vote! In spite of my preference for bread I have always had a love hate relationship with it. I realise my addiction for bread and wish it didn't have that power over me. According to healthy eating advice - depending on the year it is issued- I have learned bread is bad for you - but- wait for it - new research now says it is good for you! It can cause bloating, sluggishness, lethargy and dear knows what else besides and so after avoiding it or limiting intake( which is not a bad idea anyway) we now are told bread is a clean, healthy wholesome essential addition to the diet. Ah well - back to the old saying- "Everything in moderation!"

I know I can live without bread for a certain length of time if I am really disciplined and organised and have some other "more healthy" option to eat. But in spite of all my good intentions I lapse back into my default position which is "I need bread." And after a long abstinence that first bite into the warm soft bread is just heavenly!

Bread is a staple of so many diets. As well as sustaining life when nothing else is available it is there to be enjoyed as well. I have never done it - but I could imagine living reasonably healthily on bread alone (with a little butter, and a little bit of cheese or jam). I remember watching a programme recently about eating habits and one little boy had eaten nothing except crisps for the seven years - his mother was worried about the effects on his health - it turned out he was perfectly healthy! If I ever try eating nothing but bread for seven years I will update you with the results! I am sorely tempted!

Jesus would have been familiar with the importance of bread in the diet of his day, both in a social and religious setting. There was great religious significance around bread - leavened or unleavened. The Passover was eaten with unleavened bread - a reminder of the haste with which the Israelites had to flee from Egypt. There was not time to hang around and allow yeast to do its work and make the dough rise. Just mix it together , bake it, eat it and go! Jesus used bread and yeast as analogies of the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus when tempted to give in to his own hunger and his dependency on God reminded himself of the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 8 v 4 " Man does not live on bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord."

Jesus could not live life without reference to God. His whole life and being depended on God. Jesus demonstrated his Oneness with God and so to depend on Jesus is to depend on God .

Someone once remarked that he could remember all the special occasions when he dined out - he ate some fantastic, exotic foods, but he went on to add that if he had depended upon these special luxury foods to sustain him over a lifetime they would have failed. No, what kept him going was the basic ordinary food of his breakfast, dinner and tea.

Jesus doesn't want to be a luxury spiritual item in our life. He wants to be the basic essential of our spiritual lives. Not only to be depended on daily but also to be enjoyed.
Jesus brings life! Daily walking with Jesus will lead to healthy spiritual lives.

There are times when we are tempted to walk away from Him, maybe try other things that seem more exciting and exotic in comparison to daily trusting in Christ himself.
But having known the presence of Jesus in your heart it is well nigh impossible to stay away for ever. You become addicted! Jesus will keep calling you back. Back to enjoy his life and joy in your heart.
Jesus is the bread of life and offers a daily abundant supply to those who have open hearts to receive it. Amen

Prayer . Father we pray for those who are hungry for life;
for those who know only how to take and need to learn how to give;
for those who love to receive but have not learned to share; We have all we need for life , but think we need more. We have more than enough but still we lack joy, hope, love and peace.
We have received everything from God's gracious hand but still we have no thankfulness,
no sense of our dependence on him,
to make us more loving to those who have so little.
Lord, may the selflessness of Christ conquer our hard hearts,
that all may be fed. Amen

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The Ninth Sunday after Trinity

Collect
Almighty God,
who sent your Holy Spirit
to be the life and light of your Church:
Open our hearts to the riches of his grace,
that we may bring forth the fruit of the Spirit
in love and joy and peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The First Reading - 2 Samuel 11:26 - 12:13a or Exodus 16: 2-4, 9-15
The Psalm - Psalm 51: 1-13 or Psalm 78: 23-29
The Second Reading - Ephesians 4: 1-16
The Gospel Reading - John 6: 24-35
Click here to view the readings via the oremus Bible Browser website

Post Communion Prayer
Holy Father,
who gathered us here around the table of your Son
to share this meal with the whole household of God:
In that new world where you reveal the fulness of your peace,
gather people of every race and language
to share in the eternal banquet
of Jesus Christ our Lord.

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