"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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The Sunday before Lent - Transfiguration

Collect

Almighty Father,
whose Son was revealed in majesty
before he suffered death upon the cross:
Give us grace to perceive his glory,
that we may be strengthened to suffer with him
and be changed into his likeness, from glory to glory;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The First Reading

Exodus 24: 12–18

The Psalm

Psalm 2 or Psalm 99

The Second Reading

2 Peter 1: 16–21

The Gospel Reading

Matthew 17: 1–9

Post Communion Prayer

Lord,
in this sacrament you have nourished us
with the spiritual food of the body and blood of your dear Son.
Not only with our lips
but with our lives may we truly confess his name,
and so enter the kingdom of heaven.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

 

Recently various people have asked me “Have you been on holiday?” You might think that this was because they had noticed my absence and had missed me – but that is not the case. I came back from holiday with a sun tan so people only had to look at me to know that I had been somewhere where there was plenty of warm sunshine. My face gave it away!

In the Old Testament we read about Moses covering his face with a veil (Exodus 34:29-35) because when he returned from Mount Sinai his skin shone and people sensed that something had happened and were afraid. So he covered his face with a veil, only removing it when he was praying. His encounter with God had changed him and this was clear to all who saw him.

The same thing happened to Jesus at the transfiguration “And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white” (Matthew 17:2). Watching this clearly had a profound effect on Peter as he wrote years later about it saying that he had been an eyewitness of Jesus majesty.

The experience of Peter, and that of James and John who were with him, was a unique experience - Those who followed them in the Christian faith could not have the same experience - we will not experience what they did - but we can all experience our own moments of transfiguration - there will for all of us be moments when we become especially aware of the glory and the majesty of God.

Perhaps during a service of worship when suddenly everything around us ceases to matter except the presence of God - we are so aware of him that we feel we could almost reach out and touch him. Perhaps in our own times of prayer God suddenly feels especially close and we feel we want to stay for ever in his presence - or perhaps there is a moment when we become aware of some of the beauties of nature and through that we become aware of God. God draws close to us in many different ways. It doesn't matter where or how we experience him, whether we are alone or with others - such experiences of God are important and precious.

And these experiences of God will change us in some way and such changes may be obvious to others in the same way as my sun tan is obvious.

You might like to use the following words, the verse of a modern hymn, as a prayer.

I am coming up the mountain, Lord
I am seeking you and you alone
I know that I will be transformed
My heart unveiled before you
I am longing for your presence Lord
Envelop me within the cloud
I am coming up the mountain Lord
My heart unveiled before you
I will come.

 

Rev. Janice Elsdon

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The Second Sunday before Lent

Collect

Almighty God,
you have created the heavens and the earth
and made us in your own image:
Teach us to discern your hand in all your works
and your likeness in all your children;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who with you and the Holy Spirit
reigns supreme over all things, now and for ever.

 

The First Reading

Genesis 1: 1 – 2: 3 or Isaiah 49:8–16a

 

The Psalm

Psalm 136 or Psalm 136: 1–9, [23–26] or Psalm 131

 

The Second Reading

Romans 8: 18–25 or 1 Corinthians 4: 1–5

 

The Gospel Reading

Matthew 6: 25–34 or Matthew 6: 24–34

 

Post Communion Prayer

God our creator,
by your gift the tree of life was set at the heart
of the earthly paradise,
and the Bread of life at the heart of your Church.
May we who have been nourished at your table on earth
be transformed by the glory of the Saviour’s Cross
and enjoy the delights of eternity;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Did you know that God spent ages trying to think up a good name for a 24 hour period? In the end he couldn’t, so he decided to call it a day…

Isn’t it amazing how often we find that our expectation of something doesn’t match its attainment? It’s like those who keep telling us that we’re “due a good summer.” Or the noisome pestilence of our politicians telling us that this time they’ll make things work… Or the difference between the states of engagement and marriage!

The Genesis reading presents us with the 1st of 2 poetic descriptions of a pristine world. In this version we witness a beautiful unfolding of life, the universe and everything in a neat, ordered progression. In building up this picture the message is reinforced that each new stage is dependant on the last; that creation is interdependent on itself for its ongoing survival. Maybe I’m not the only one who, when I hear this reading, thinks- among other things- ‘What went wrong?’ (I have much the same thought any time I pass a mirror…)

We meet St Paul, in the 2nd reading, in the middle of theological hyperbole or, as I prefer to call it, ‘going off on one’! The vision of glory he has had revealed to him, and its certainty throbbing in his soul, sometimes makes Paul act like an excited puppy. Of course, that’s lovely, but then we end up with passages like 1 Corinthians 15 on the Resurrection and Romans 8 on sin and sanctification! Anyway, what Paul describes is essentially accurate: the yearning for God’s deliverance in the midst of tribulation. Acknowledging that things are messy and troublesome Paul nonetheless waits, and encourages his readers to wait, “with patience” based upon hope in Christ.

The Gospel Reading recounts well-known words by Jesus about worry, culminating with his brilliant advice: “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” And yet, isn’t that a bit rich? It’s easy for the man who can find gold coins in fish, turn water into wine and feed an army with a child’s packed lunch! But what about us? What about when we’re not sure our pay will cover the whole month’s bills? What about when we have to choose between heat and food? What about those who have to decide between staying at home to face likely death or fleeing their country to face uncertainty and suspicion by callous foreign nations? Maybe a bit of worry might be natural after all.

Yet, in the context of today’s other 2 readings, Jesus’ words take on a softer, gentler, more practical edge. As children of God we have a heavenly Father; we aren’t orphaned waifs adrift in a sea of random circumstance. We may face many struggles with finances, health, family, mental wellbeing or whatever, but the difference is between knowing we aren’t alone and facing an empty universe. The perspective of faith that arises from encountering God’s love for us in Christ is the key that allows us to trust, without worry, that all shall be well (to plagiarise St Julian of Norwich).

That trust depends upon the awareness of our belovèdness and the commitment to make that into a way of life that touches those around us with the same belovèd sense. Jesus’ name for that is the Kingdom of God. Within that kingdom we not only recognise our relation to our heavenly Father, but we also recognise our connection to one another. And then we discover a connection with those beyond us who are in need. In God’s kingdom, worry is banished for we find that in God’s kingdom, a bit like the picture of creation, we depend upon each other for our ultimate survival.

And that means that no one can be left alone to fend for themselves…

Ouch.


Canon Mark Niblock

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The Fourth Sunday before Lent

Collect

O God,
you know us to be set
in the midst of so many and great dangers,
that by reason of the frailty of our nature
we cannot always stand upright:
Grant to us such strength and protection
as may support us in all dangers
and carry us through all temptations;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The First Reading

Isaiah 58:1–9a, 9b–12

The Psalm

Psalm 112: 1–9,10

The Second Reading

1 Corinthians 2: 1–12,13–16

The Gospel Reading

Matthew 5:13–20

Post Communion Prayer

God of tender care,
in this eucharist we celebrate your love for us and for all people.
May we show your love in our lives
and know its fulfilment in your presence.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

When I had a proper job(!) the boss's secretary had a little card on her wall that read: 

The real mark of an individual is how they treat a person who can do them absolutely no good whatsoever.


I've always loved that quote

And hated it...

Wotya think yourself?


Canon Mark Niblock


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